European space agencies step up space surveillance and tracking
Five European countries have this week agreed to do more to monitor and track space objects and detect their uncontrolled re-entry into Earth’s atmosphere.
The Space Surveillance and Tracking (SST) Consortium Agreement, signed by France, Germany, Italy, Spain and the United Kingdom, will see its members cooperating to provide an EU-wide Space Surveillance and Tracking Framework to help protect European space infrastructure, facilities and services which are essential for the safety and security of the economies and citizens of Europe.
The Consortium will exploit existing national infrastructures and sensors to provide a service to monitor and track space objects and debris; support and help spacecraft operators and users by providing a service for collision avoidance; create surveys for fragmentation detection; and monitor uncontrolled re-entry of space objects into Earth’s atmosphere.
Beside the information provided by the US, such a service will give more autonomy to Europe in this crucial field.
The 5 European Union member states will cooperate with the European Union Satellite Centre (SATCEN), established by the Council Joint Action, to implement the provision of the SST services. Inside the member states, the national space agencies will collaborate closely with their ministries of defence, both having a vested interest in the monitoring of the space environment.
The European Commission has foreseen some budget in the period 2015-2020 for space surveillance and tracking services, upgrading of the existing European infrastructure and sensors, as well as the development of new assets. ■