The Space Situational Awareness seminar, Warsaw the 29th of September 2011

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At the end of September the Space Situational Awareness seminar was held in Warsaw, Poland. This event focused on space based disaster monitoring, space debris, space weather and Near Earth Object (NEO) observations. About 200 specialists attended the meeting and exchanged their knowledge and experience. The PowerPoint presentations from the event have just been posted at: http://www.ssawarsaw.pl/Presentations

Space situational awareness (SSA) is a term which covers the detection and prediction of space-based threats for Earth and its orbital infrastructure. The topic relates to problems such as such as space debris, space weather (the interaction of solar wind with spacecrafts and the planets’ magnetosphere and ionosphere) and NEOs (asteroids and comets that come relatively close to our planet).

SSA has lately become an important topic for several space agencies and government agendas around the world. For developed countries and their technological-predominant armies, space infrastructure is crucial to the economy, communications, intelligence and even military actions. Each year, several sources of space threats are seen as a more severe hazard, especially after events such as the Chinese ASAT test from January 2007 or Iridium 33 and Kosmos 2251 satellite collision from January 2009.

Tracking hardware presented at the seminary / Credits: Ela Zoclonska

The European Union and the European Space Agency have also initiated their own activities in the SSA field. They both decided to build a SSA system in partnership with the European Defense Agency (EDA), as the threats may concern civil and military infrastructure.

The event in Warsaw was organized by the Ministry of Economy as a part of the events hosted by the Polish Presidency during the Council of the European Union. The meeting was intended to exchange SSA-related experiences of various organizations and science institutes and to present existing technologies, which can track and observe space debris, predict space weather or detect NEO objects.

The day before the conference a banquet was held at Wednesday evening, in the Warsaw Galeria Porczyńskich. The banquet was accompanied by music and Polish cuisine. Still, neither the banquet, nor the conference featured the announced presence of the minister of economy, Waldemar Pawlak. The minister was probably engaged in then ongoing parliamentary election activities, still it could be viewed as the government’s negligence towards SSA and space policy.

The conference was opened by Ms. Grażyna Heclewska, undersecretary of state in the Ministry of Economy. The meeting was attended by about 200 participants and among them there were representatives from the European Commission (European External Action Service and EUMETSAT), space agencies (ESA, NASA, UKSA, ISA, The Norwegian Space Center and the Polish Space Research Center CBK PAN), the military (France, Germany, EDA), the US Department of State and the commercial sector.

During the three panels several topics were discussed – such as plans and progress in building of the European SSA systems and European or American experiences in this manner. Due to economic reasons and international aspects of the threats, all European countries contribute to a preliminary SSA system using civilian and military infrastructure. This was stressed by all French-German presentations and French representatives of civilian and military institutions. Until demonstration broadband detecting radars will be developed, European core SSA services will be provided by the French military radar GRAVES and a German civilian high energy radar TIRA. Preparations are being made to construct a new generation of radar equipment, and various locations are viewed at to become its main site.

Thorough the seminary multimedia presentations and posters concerning SSA topic could also be viewed, as well as interactive, pad controlled sets of cameras, which are used on satellites.

Business entities and non-profit organisations are also going to be included in the SSA program. At the conference, representatives of SES mentioned, that until recently SSA threats have not been seen as important. Now, the new organization services are acting as a warning system for satellite fleets.

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