Looking after the space environment for the long term. Our modern societies are increasingly dependent on the applications provided by our space systems, in both the civil and military sectors. The purpose of Space Situational Awareness (SSA) is to be able to manage this space traffic and its growth
One of the main consequences of this utilisation of space by and for mankind is the build-up in the number of objects in orbit around the Earth. These objects are either active (satellites in operation) or inactive (satellites which are no longer functioning, debris resulting from orbital injection, from break-up or even from collision, etc.). In some cases, there is a risk of objects falling back to Earth.
The purpose of Space Situational Awareness (SSA) is to be able to manage this space traffic and its growth, in order to guarantee not only the integrity of present and future space systems (in particular against the risk of collision), but also the safety of the Earth’s population and infrastructures against the risk posed by orbital debris. A service such as this, in many ways similar to motorway or air traffic control, requires measurement systems (radars, telescopes), means of interpreting data and predicting the situation in space and, finally, means of producing and providing services tailored to the institutional, private and defence user communities (overflight alerts, operation planning, collision alerts, re-entry alerts, manoeuvre planning, and so on).
Both the United States and Russia have this type of capability and a number of investigations have been carried out in Europe since the 1990s (institutional, defence and private sectors) aimed at enabling it to acquire a similar, independent, yet complementary capacity, within the framework of international cooperative agreements
Airbus Defence and Space realised at an early stage the crucial importance of such a service in guaranteeing the long-term future of space exploitation, and since 2005 has been particularly active in all the work being done in this field in Europe, both nationally and at European level, in particular through ESA’s Space Situational Awareness Preparatory Programme.
Airbus Defence and Space has thus designed innovative space-based and ground-based optical and laser solutions, for surveillance of the orbital environment (look-out, tracking and identification of objects), which is the core of any SSA system. It is also bringing its unparalleled experience to bear in the design, integration, deployment and operation of security systems with a space component. Building on this expertise and its multinational presence, Airbus Defence and Space has the ability to contribute to the success of the various SSA initiatives emerging in Europe and bring them together into a coherent and effective whole.