Stratcom brings Spain into the space surveillance fold

The U.S. Strategic Command recently signed a memorandum of understanding with Spain, the tenth country agreeing to share space situational awareness.

The U.S. Strategic Command is continuing to expand its partnerships on the space frontier, signing a memorandum of understanding with Spain to share situational awareness.

The December missive will mutually enhance awareness in space, increasing safe operation, a release from Strategic Command said.

“Our space systems underpin a wide range of services, providing vital national, military, civil, scientific, and economic benefits to the global community,” said Adm. Cecil Haney, commander of Strategic Command. “Space situational awareness, which requires cooperation in order to be effective, is one of many approaches used to ensure we continue benefitting from this critical domain.”

Stratcom currently enjoys space situational awareness data sharing agreements with nine nations – the U.K, South Korea, France, Canada, Italy, JapanIsraelGermany and Australia – along with two intergovernmental organizations, the European Space Agency and the European Organization for the Exploitation of Meteorological Satellites. 

Haney has expressed in the past that threats in space are real. In 2007, China launched an anti-satellite kill vehicle that created thousands of debris pieces. These pieces, which can travel at speeds of 17,000 miles per hour, would instantly destroy the high-value satellite assets that the military and civilian worlds rely on for daily operations. In the 2016 Worldwide Threat Assessment, Director of National Intelligence James Clapper warned that counter-space activity by adversaries is likely to increase, with actions designed to “deny, degrade, or disrupt U.S. space systems.”  

“From a warfighter’s perspective, the idea of doing anything that we do in the United States military anywhere on Earth without the support we get from assets in space is a non-starter,” Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Mark Welsh III told lawmakers in February. “Everything from precision of weapons to navigation to timing of operations to control of an encrypted communication, everything relies on assets that are now on orbit in space.”

The reliance on space-based systems underscores the need for cooperation, Haney said. “As more countries, companies and organizations field space capabilities and benefit from the use of space systems, it is in our collective interest to act responsibly, promote transparency and enhance the long-term sustainability, stability, safety and security of space,” he said.

These agreements streamline the process for partners to request information crucial for launch support, satellite maneuver planning, support for on-orbit anomalies, electromagnetic interference reporting and investigation, satellite decommissioning activities and on-orbit conjunction assessments, Stratcom said. 

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