This post is also available in: עברית (Hebrew)
Today, space is more congested and contested than ever before, and threats against U.S. capabilities grow every day. Space Situational Awareness (SSA) has long been synonymous with detecting, tracking, and identifying all artificial objects in Earth orbit otherwise known as catalog maintenance. It is the overall understanding of what is occurring in the domain.
SSA enables the continuous preparation of the battlespace in order to fight and win a war in space. Simply put, SSA is Space Battle Management. Like the air domain, there is a daily mission of air traffic control and a wartime mission of Air Battle Management.
To ensure effective SSA, sensors need access to intelligence, flexible tasking, rapid decision making, and integration between platforms. SSA sensors have long operated in a relatively static tasking construct, without detailed intelligence, to give operators understanding of why they are tasked against a particular object, according to patrick.af.mil.
Sensors need flexible tasking that provides the operator with the freedom to decide how to best employ their weapons system. Tasking orders need to clearly state the desired effect or objective. For example, the objective may be that an area near a high-value asset needs to be cleared. Clearing is when all objects in an area of space are determined to be known. Integration and working relationships between different sensor platforms optimize Space Battle Management. Different sensors may complement each other and hand-off important target data.
Combining information from several sensors enables command and control centers to make better decisions. For example, if an uncorrelated target is found by a ground-based radar, Ground Based-Electro-Optical Deep Space Surveillance, GEODSS, could follow up on the targets and provide additional data. Hand-offs between electro-optical sensors, radars, and on orbit platforms can ensure high priority targets aren’t lost.
To ensure effective weaponeering of SSA sensors, operators need to be empowered to act through the incorporation of intelligence, flexible tasking, rapid decision making, and platform integration.