NASA Joins SDA to Improve Space Flight Safety

We were very happy earlier this month when it was announced that NASA had signed an agreement to use information provided by the Space Data Association (SDA). This information will be used to help avoid collisions in space, which are an increasing danger as orbital lanes get ever-more crowded.

The SDA was established to improve the safety and efficiency of space operations, and Intelsat is a founding member. NASA agreeing to use SDA information to support its robotic space probes is a powerful demonstration of the confidence the agency has in SDA’s conjunction assessments (the term for tracking and computing objects in orbit).

Each time a new organization begins to work with SDA, all members benefit. This is because organizations don’t only receive data from the SDA, they provide it as well. As part of the agreement, NASA will be providing satellite positioning information (referred to as ephemera) to SDA.

The broader the participation with SDA becomes, the richer and more exact the data becomes to avoid collisions in space. Intelsat General’s Richard DalBello talks about risk management and collision avoidance in this video.

We’re not the only ones who view this announcement as big news. According to an editorial in trade magazine Space News, this announcement “signifies the arrival of the SDA — and by extension the commercial satellite industry — as an important player in monitoring the increasingly congested orbital environment.” Here’s the full piece.

The SDA seeks the participation of all satellite operators globally. Hopefully the participation of major civilian agencies like NASA and NOAA will open the door to DoD participation, as well as international civil agencies.  Space is getting very crowded – cooperation in this area benefits everyone.