RE: reasons for tracking

From: Theresa Hitchens (
Date: Mon Aug 09 2004 - 10:01:52 EDT

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    Dear All,
    Like Jeffrey Lewis, I am a member of the policy community and not a tracker
    -- but I am deeply interested in this subject, which I believe is a critical
    one for the future security of global space assets. So, I would like to make
    a couple of points on the issue of access to tracking data, and then ask for
    some possible assistance from the SeeSat community.
    It remains unclear how the U.S. Air Force will conduct its pilot program.
    There is internal squabbling about continuing to make public the TLEs long
    provided by NASA, with the intelligence community putting pressure towards
    discontinuing the public service -- even though many NASA and even Air Force
    officials do not believe the data that has long been released creates
    serious problems for intel gathering or for future safety of satellites.
    Nonetheless, it remains a possibility that access to TLEs will be more
    restricted in future. Ted is right that, up to now, however, DoD doesn't
    seem to have its act together on the pilot project; there has been little
    information about how its going to work yet to come out in the public
    Meanwhile, there is new concern in Europe in particular that -- with the
    U.S. taking a more militarized posture toward space -- that Europe needs to
    find ways to become less dependent on the U.S. military for space-related
    capabilities across the board, including space surveillance. There is
    growing interest in Europe in developing a European alternative to the USAF
    Space Surveillance Network, even if such a European network in the beginning
    would not be as capable. There is also an argument beginning to be made in
    policy circles that, if there is ever to be space arms control or a serious
    effort at rules of the road for space operators, that an independent system
    of tracking debris and satellites will be required. Not all countries are
    going to be willing to take the word of the U.S. military to, for example,
    verify space treaties/agreements in future, especially in light of recent
    events at the United Nations. I have even had some Air Force officials say
    that an alternative network would be GOOD for U.S. security, in that it
    could provide verification of U.S. data without the U.S. having to give away
    sensitive data. Some in the U.S. military policy community have raised the
    concept of an international microsat network that could provide space
    tracking data (Dr. Randall Correll of SAIC just a week ago gave a speech on
    this as part of thinking here on the concept of so-called Operationally
    Responsive Space.")
    It is my strong belief that as more countries and actors have access to
    space, transparency is critical for safe operations, for example to avoid
    accidents that might provoke conflict. I also believe that it would not be
    ethical for the U.S. military to seek a monopoly on, or to control of, this
    data, which will be more necessary for peaceful operations in space in
    future not less. And, to be honest, as a former journalist, I think groups
    like yours provide vital services to civil society and freedom of
    In light of that, I have proposed to a funder -- and am hopeful of receiving
    the grant -- a project to try to bring together a conference in 2005 to look
    at the possibility, practicality and advisability of an effort to create an
    international Space Surveillance Network that would provide basic data to
    all users and countries. I would like to invite European officials working
    on this (France has become particularly interested, seeing the GRAVES system
    as a possibly integral part), U.N. representatives, scientists, astronomers
    and members of the SeeSat and other satellite tracking community to explore
    the issue. I am considering Brussels, Belgium, as a venue to encourage
    international participation, but have also thought about starting with a
    smaller group at a conference in Washington or Cambridge. It seems to me
    with all the assets out there, from actual telescopes etc. to models
    developed by your community, the question would be finding a way (and
    perhaps funding to support) networking these assets.
    Since I know this is a bit off topic for you all, I'd like to encourage
    those of you who might be interested in such an exercise -- or who might
    have comments about how to and not to go about facilitating this discussion
    -- to contact me directly at I am the director of CDI's
    Space Security Project, and we have some information on this issue posted on
    our website, 
    Thanks, and I wish you all luck, and clear skies!
    Theresa Hitchens
    Vice President
    Center for Defense Information
    1779 Massachusetts Ave., NW
    Washington, DC 20036
    Tel: 202-797-5269; Fax: 202-462-4559
    -----Original Message-----
    From: [] On
    Behalf Of Allen Thomson
    Sent: Monday, August 09, 2004 8:47 AM
    Subject: Re: reasons for tracking
    Graham wrote,
    > Ted wrote:
    > > "Who are the others, and how might they act?"
    > The goverment.
    That would be the US government, and most of the satellite trackers are
    beyond the reach of the USG.  Even for the few who are Americans, the US
    government has shown an extreme and well-founded fear of taking such matters
    to court.  The satellite tracking case would never get close, because it
    involves  information  available to anyone who cares to watch the sky -- 
    what would the charges be, and how would they be presented to a jury?
    IMO,  the only practical danger would be if such a US person worked for a
    company that did business with the offended parts of the defense and/or
    intelligence communities, in which case he/she might come under job
    Note, by the way, that the present question of TLE availability *doesn't*
    affect the satellites the government is annoyed about.
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