Submission from Space Insight Limited
1.1 This written submission is unusual in
that it addresses the need for the UK Space Policy to include
the subject of the surveillance of space. The authors recognise
that this subject is not within the primary scope of the Science
& Technology Committee's review but would argue that without
its inclusion, Space Policy lacks an essential part of its foundations.
1.2 There are regulatory, commercial, and
military benefits to the monitoring of space objects.
1.3 UK Space Policy should explicitly include
space monitoring. The UK should adopt a national programme to
support its own independent capabilities and to participate in
ESA/EU surveillance of space initiatives.
2. ABOUT SPACE
2.1 Space Insight Limited provides space
observation and monitoring services to two UK Government bodies:
BNSC and the MoD's Defence Science & Technology Laboratory
(DSTL). Staff working for the company have more than 20 years
experience in the surveillance and monitoring of space objects.
2.2 In particular, Space Insight staff were
responsible for the design, development, implementation, data
analysis and day-to-day operation of an optical space surveillance
demonstrator project run by the Defence Intelligence Staff. From
1995-2005 this project used five robotic optical telescopes to
track satellites in the higher Earth orbits (including GEO, GTO,
MEO, and HEO). These telescopes provided a regular feed of information
to US Space Command. Company staff have been members of official
UK Government visits to the Pentagon, NORAD's Cheyenne Mountain
Complex, and various DoD space surveillance facilities.
2.3 Currently, Space Insight is working
with BNSC and DSTL on new space surveillance concepts and has
installed a sensor called Starbrook on an MoD base in Cyprus.
The company and BNSC are now using this sensor to evaluate innovative
and efficient methods for monitoring space objects.
2.4 Company staff are chosen by BNSC to
provide expert technical support at ESA meetings and other forums.
For example, company staff are members of the UK delegation to
the Inter-Agency Space Debris Co-ordination Committee, an inter-governmental
forum which advises the UN Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer
Space about space debris issues.
3.1 The environment within which Earth orbiting
satellites operate is becoming increasingly crowded. Each year,
launches have added new objects to the resident space population
of man-made objects faster than the rate of attrition by atmospheric
decay. Whilst the number of annual launches is lower than its
historic high in the 1970s and 1980s, the total number of objects
continues to increase year on year.
3.2 Despite this, the monitoring of objects
in space is often disregarded when space related issues are being
considered and we would argue that this is a serious omission.
There are three primary reasons why monitoring space activity
should not be disregarded; monitoring is needed:
to check compliance with regulations
and good practice;
to know what is in space and what
it is doing; and
to reduce risk and ensure safe operation.
3.3 We review briefly each of these reasons
before examining the current limitations in the UK's access to
space monitoring information. We then suggest points of emphasis
for a future Space Policy which would remove or lessen these limitations.
4. REVIEW OF
4.1 Compliance with regulations
4.1.1 The UK has entered into a number of
international treaties regarding the use of Outer Space. Treaty
articles place with each State the responsibility and liability
for activities in space carried out on its behalf or by entities
based within it; the activities of non-governmental entities require
authorisation and continuing supervision by the launching State.
A space monitoring capability can provide an expert witness service
in the event of liability disputes under space law.
4.1.2 The UK, through the Outer Space Act,
requires that all objects launched into space by UK organisations
and companies are registered with BNSC. The Act places requirements
on the licensee regarding the conduct of operations and disposal
of objects placed in space. To meet its supervision obligations,
the UK requires a capability to monitor compliance with both UK
law and international treaties.
4.1.3 In addition, there is significant
international activity towards the establishing of ISO standards
for space object design and debris mitigation. Because satellites
are being made ever-cheaper by a wide range of manufacturers,
standards to minimise debris production and to specify de-orbiting
timescales are essential for the protection of the space environment.
However, without monitoring, adherence to standards cannot be
4.2 Knowledge gathering
4.2.1 Surveillance of space is becoming
an increasingly important national security issue. There are now
45 countries  that have satellites in space and this number
will increase as satellite and launch costs decrease. These satellites
have many dual-use (ie civilian and military) capabilities
which can be utilised in times of conflict. For example, ground
imaging normally used for crop studies could also be used to monitor
movement of UK troops in a theatre of conflictaccurate
knowledge of the disposition of other nations' satellites could
improve the safety of operations by British forces.
4.2.2 The MoD acknowledges [2, 3] that it
requires a detailed knowledge of the disposition of friendly and
hostile space objectsie a Recognised Picture for
spaceto complement its existing Recognised Pictures for
land, sea, and air.
4.3 Safe operation
4.3.1 Space has been treated as if there
were no limits on the number of objects that could be sent into
orbit in much the same way as the skies were seen as limitless
in the early days of air flight. With an increasing number of
objects, the assumption of limitless space has ceased to be valid
and space control is becoming recognised as an important issue
that can no longer be ignored.
4.3.2 Accidental collisions between objects
in space have already been detected. The best documented of these
was the collision in 1996 between the French Cerise satellite
and a piece of debris from an Ariane launch vehicle.
4.3.3 Users of space are largely left to
self-manage the safety of the objects that they launch and are
expected to obtain any information regarding other objects already
in orbit from their own sources. It is largely left as a matter
of trust that operators obey the license requirements placed on
them by law and treaty obligations.
4.3.4 Clearly the use of space will need
to be more tightly controlled and monitored in future; space traffic
control will become as necessary as air traffic control is today.
5. SOURCES OF
5.1 Currently, the primary source of data
regarding the orbits of objects in space is a catalogue produced
by the US Space Command (part of the US Department of Defense's
Strategic Command). Historically, the primary purpose of the monitoring
of space objects by US Space Command was for ballistic missile
warning, with the generation of a space object catalogue as a
by-product. More recently, the importance of space has been recognized
by the US military and the role of US Space Command has evolved
to include a much wider range of activities including space control.
5.2 The US Space Command catalogue of objects
is released into the public domain some days after it is produced,
is of limited accuracy, and is deliberately incomplete. For example,
the US policy is to withhold information on objects until their
origin is determined. These restrictions result in the information
on which many organisations rely being dated, inappropriate for
purpose, or absent. A UK satellite operator cannot obtain the
accuracy that is necessary for tasks such as collision avoidance,
and would not know if information about other objects was being
withheld because of US national or third-party interests.
5.3 Recognising the limitations of the US
catalogue, the European Space Agency, in conjunction with the
European Union, is looking at setting up its own space surveillance
network to provide an independent source of information better
suited to European needs (which include management of, and risk
assessment for, the Galileo constellation). It is expected that
proposals for this system will be placed before the ESA Ministerial
meeting in 2008 for approval. Data products from any resultant
system will not be available for some years.
5.4 Within the UK, RAF Fylingdales is the
only operational space surveillance radar. The UK's operation
of this US-procured radar underpins UK access to the US catalogue,
as described above. Although ~95% of the radar's time is dedicated
to US Space Command, the UK does have ~5% of the time for national
use. We understand that no funding is available for the use of
national time on the Fylingdales radar with the consequence that
the UK has not developed the resources to leverage other benefits
from its operation of this valuable facility.
5.5 The high latitude of the Fylingdales
radar places restrictions on the detectability of objects launched
from low latitude sites, such as those launch sites in China,
Iran, and North Korea.
6.1 Space Insight recommends that the UK
Government recognises the need for space monitoring and control
as a core activity underpinning the UK's future utilisation of
space and without which the other aims of the UK's Space Policy
may be compromised. Therefore, monitoring of the space population
and awareness of the requirement for space control should be explicitly
included in any future Space Policy.
6.2 Specifically, Space Insight recommends
that the Space Policy should promote the development and operation
of national capabilities to ensure that the UK civil authorities,
armed forces, and non-governmental organisations can obtain appropriate
information of known provenance about the space population and
the space environment. The UK should initiate a national programme
to support the existing optical space surveillance activity, to
fund use and exploitation of national time on the Fylingdales
radar, and to expand monitoring coverage.
6.3 With its experience and expertise, the
UK is well placed to take a central role in planned EU/ESA surveillance
of space initiatives. The Space Policy should commit to full participation
in these initiatives at the earliest opportunity with the aim
of providing the UK with monitoring information about space from
a balanced portfolio of national and European capabilities.
See POSTnote 273 Military Uses of Space, December 2006,
published by the Parliamentary Office of Science and Technology.
 See Future Air and Space Operation Concept,
published by Directorate of Air Staff.
 See Royal Air ForceStrategy, 2006,
published by the Ministry of Defence.