Space Surveillance Network: New Way Proposed To Support Commercial and Foreign Entities
GENERAL ACCOUNTING OFFICE WASHINGTON DC
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DOD uses the U.S. space surveillance network to track active and inactive satellites and space debris generated from launch vehicles and satellite breakups, and the agency catalogs and provides these data to DOD organizations, U.S. government agencies, and commercial and foreign entities to ensure safe and effective operations. The network has been tracking space objects since 1957, when the former Soviet Union launched Sputnik. DOD also relies on the space surveillance network for warning when a foreign satellite becomes a threat to military operations and for information to support responsive measures. The network collects and processes the space surveillance data and sends an unclassified portion to NASAs Goddard Space Flight Center. The data sent to NASA are combined with a small amount of NASAs own data and made available to users without charge on a NASA website. NASA provides information at various levels of detail. This ranges from general space surveillance data accessed by recreational space enthusiasts who register for access which resulted in over 100,000 hits to the web site per month in 2001 to much more specific and extensive data accessed only by twenty-one registered super users. Some users request even more extensive data and analysis NASA reviews and forwards these requests to the U.S. Space Command for further analysis. Currently, NASA spends about 200,000 annually to provide space surveillance support through its Web site.
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