VANDENBERG SPACE FORCE BASE, Calif. -- The 18th Space Control Squadron collaborated with members from the German Space Situational Awareness Centre (GSSAC) during an ‘Operator Exchange’ event here April 4-8, 2022.
This first-ever, week-long event brought together five GSSAC space operators with numerous 18 SPCS representatives to examine and improve procedures between the two groups who share the same mission set.
“This operator exchange allows our two organizations to learn from each other and see how operations are conducted at our respective operations centers,” said U.S. Space Force 1st Lt. Christopher Scofield, 18 SPCS Space Situational Awareness (SSA) sharing coordinator and lead for the exchange program. “Both our organizations provide space situational and space domain awareness, and are dedicated to advancing spaceflight safety.”
The 18 SPCS executes U.S. Space Command’s SDA mission, including command and control of the U.S. space surveillance network, and is also responsible for the SSA Sharing program, which provides tracking data of resident space objects to commercial, international and academic partners.
Similarly, the GSSAC is the central contact point of German Federal Government for SSA, providing products supporting national political decision making, German forces in theatre, and protection of orbital systems and space infrastructure.
The collective data is primarily used for mission functions such as launch detection and tracking, conjunction assessment and collision avoidance, human spaceflight support, maneuver detection, breakup identification, and reentry assessment.
According to www.space-track.org, 18 SPCS’s official website for tracking objects in space, there are approximately 44,800 objects continuously being monitored and accounted for, a number that is continually growing at an unprecedented pace. With space traffic increasing, Scofield pressed the importance of data sharing between partners.
“Leveraging and integrating data and knowledge from our partners has already payed dividends in advancing space domain awareness,” Scofield explained. “In times of conflict, these will be the partnerships we rely on to defend U.S. and allied interests in space. Collaborating now will ensure mission success in the future.”
Although the GSSAC did visit Vandenberg in 2015, the ‘first-ever’ description alludes to the ‘exchange’ part of the event.
“This May will be the first time 18 SPCS will conduct a reciprocal visit by sending five operators to the GSSAC,” Scofield said. “I’m inspired by the enthusiasm of members of the 18th and GSSAC who are devoted to growing this partnership and am eager to see what is in store for our two organizations in the years to come. Hopefully we see American and German operators on each others’ ops floor in the near future.”
As the space environment becomes increasingly congested and contested, it is very apparent that close partnerships and the rapid sharing of data to maximize situational awareness there will be ever-more essential to keeping space a safe and secure place for operations. Operator exchange events like this one are one way to increase collaboration and understanding between partners.
“I think this was extremely productive and beneficial all parties involved,” said German Air Force Lt. Col. Steffen Neumann, the German liaison officer to U.S. Space Command’s Multinational Space Coordination office, assigned to Vandenberg SFB. “The feedback I received from my team who attended the exchange event was very positive, and they greatly appreciated the high level of detail shared regarding the Space Situational Awareness mission. We want to thank the 18 SPCS for organizing the visit and are looking forward to host them in Germany in May, and hope this will become a regular event.”