Satellite interference is another high-profile industry issue that associations are embracing. It will take center stage this summer with the Olympics in London. Satellite operators have committed that all broadcasters will employ Carrier ID, a solution that that could eliminate up to 80 percent of all interference.
The two most vocal associations in this effort are the GVF and the reorganized Satellite Interference Reduction Group (sIRG) — groups credited with introducing a new global industry standard to train and certify installers worldwide, and with launching numerous working groups to develop solutions such as Carrier ID.
Martin Coleman became executive director of SIRG a year ago this past February, and he has moved swiftly to breathe new life into the group, first by relocating the association headquarters from Florida to the Isle of Man. In the last year, Coleman has traveled the globe, talking to manufacturers and breaking down barriers.
“We brought SIRG into the 21st century and opened up our association,” he says. “It’s amazing when you engage people, how much passion is out there. We needed to set goals and get some practical things done — the best way we can help is to bring solutions to the table.” SIRG now is positioned as a leading technical group and resource to other associations seeking industry-wide engineering solutions.
The need to better manage the physical space where satellites operate to avoid collisions prompted the creation of another group, the Space Data Association (SDA). Founded by satellite operators, it began operations in 2010 as the first collaborative effort to share data among competing satellite operators to make space operations safer and more reliable.
Originally focused on avoiding satellite collisions, SDA currently provides Conjunction Assessment processing for more than 340 GEO and LEO satellites, more than 65 percent of all operational satellites in geosynchronous Earth orbit (GEO) and including more than 200 member satellites. Key goals this year include getting more reliable satellite position data on the 30 percent of orbiting satellites, which are not part of SDA, and improving its knowledge of the location of space debris.
Today, the U.S. Joint Space Operations Center (JSpOC) tracks objects in space, but has been criticized by industry for not always providing the most accurate spacecraft-conjunction advisories. Stewart Sanders, SDA’s chairman and director, points out that JSpOC has limitations in terms of accurately pinpointing a satellite position since it doesn’t continually make those measurements. “The JSpOC has developed a set of capabilities, but they’re not really geared towards what the commercial satellite industry needs. The only people who know where a satellite is are the people who control it,” he says.
SDA’s new space data center shares data among satellite operators, and can process position location in nearly real time. The only time an operator is contacted is if there is an issue so it takes the workload off the operators.
“The best part is the motivation of operators to work with the vendor community and alongside customers,” says Sanders. “We go to meetings now and there is no division between customers, operators and vendors. Everyone is airing their views and presenting potential solutions.”
SDA is also seeking more collaboration with government entities on issues of mutual interest. “We want a more collaborative relationship with government entities. There is a recognition that we’re all in this together,” Sanders adds.
SIA has made significant inroads reaching out to government entities and providing a platform for commercial satellite players and government decision makers to share capabilities in a classified setting and explore how service providers, ground equipment manufacturers, satellite builders and operators can contribute to the provision of services to the warfighter and ensure safe operations in space.
“I’m personally proud of how we’ve advanced those discussions between industry and government,” concludes Cooper, who admits there’s still more to do as the military grapples with how to manage significant budget cuts and still deliver the services warfighters need and ensure that there are safe and reliable space operations.