12 December 2008. The latest issue of the “ESPI Perspectives” looks at the progress and the way forward of the planned European SSA system, given the results of the recent ESA Council Meeting at Ministerial level. It identifies the main areas for action in the near future.
Space Situational Awareness (SSA) refers to having sufficient knowledge about space objects and the dangers they might face. As such, SSA is a prerequisite for the safe and autonomous conduct of space operations. Currently, Europe is not in a state of SSA. Rather, it depends on data from abroad, mainly from the U.S. To become autonomous in this regard, Europe pursues the goal of setting up a European SSA system.
Various activities in preparation of such a European SSA system have already taken place, with the European Space Agency (ESA) taking a leading role. At the recent ESA Ministerial Council of 25/26 November 2008, it was decided to embark on a SSA preparatory programme. This marks an important step, with the Member States providing political support and an official mandate to ESA. However, essential steps remain to be taken. They include devising suitable governance and a data policy concept. While these issues have been discussed and studied for some while – both inside and outside ESA – no satisfactory solution has been found yet. This issue of “ESPI Perspectives” contributes to the process of implementing the European SSA system by reiterating its boundary conditions and by pointing at the missing pieces in the mosaic.
ESPI Research Fellow Wolfgang Rathgeber
The author of this issue of “ESPI Perspectives” is Wolfgang Rathgeber, Research Fellow at ESPI since 2005. In January 2008, he completed ESPI Report 10 on “Europe’s Way to Space Situational Awareness (SSA)” and since then has focused his work on issues related to space and security.