Neighborhood Watch:

The Air Force is interested in working more closely with operators of commercial, civil, and scientific satellites to improve the mutual understanding of activities in space, especially in geosynchronous orbital belts that are becoming more congested and potentially more dangerous, according to the general in charge of the service’s space acquisition arm. “There are certain regions of the geostationary belt that are, in a space sense, getting rather crowded,” such as over central Asia, Lt. Gen. Michael Hamel, commander of the Space and Missile Systems Center, said during a meeting with defense reporters March 11 in Washington, D.C. And as a result, there is radio-frequency interference and the possibility of spacecraft collisions, he said. Accordingly, the Air Force is exploring the idea of placing ancillary sensors on military and even non-military satellites destined for placement in these belts to perform a “neighborhood watch” function by scoping the adjacent areas to keep track of objects and warn of close approaches by other spacecraft. Hamel said USAF would also welcome it if commercial and civil operators would “share with us their knowledge of where their satellites are.” Air Force Space Command, as a whole, is exploring new strategic partnerships with industry and the civil and commercial space communities to reach new levels of collaboration and information sharing, he said. “The Department of Defense is the single largest customer of commercial space capabilities—communications, remote sensing systems, and the like. We think that there are a lot of opportunities to look at some different kind of strategic approaches and partnering,” he said.