House Committee Introduces Legislation to Clarify Federal Space Situational Awareness Roles
The U.S. House Subcommittee on Space and Aeronautics introduced legislation on Wednesday that would establish a civil space situational awareness (SSA) capability under the Department of Commerce.
Currently, the U.S. Department of Defense provides SSA services, but the Trump administration directed the Department of Commerce to take over these responsibilities by 2024 in Space Policy Directive-3. The Department of Commerce and its Office of Space Commerce (OSC) have been working toward that transition.
The bill, called the Space Situational Awareness Transition Act of 2022, establishes and authorizes an interagency transition team led by the Dept. of Commerce and DoD to develop a transition plan, to meet the 2024 deadline and ensure full operational capability within the Commerce Dept. by December 2025.
It sets U.S. policy that the SSA services be publicly available and free of direct user fees. The bill also authorizes $95 million for the Dept. of Commerce for this work in 2024.
The bill also supports the use of commercial SSA capabilities, which are supposed to form the backbone of the new SSA system. OSC has awarded a number of contracts to test commercial capabilities.
The bill also directs NASA to carry out civil R&D on space situational awareness, authorizing appropriations of $50 million for NASA in fiscal year 2024 for this work.
“Our federal leadership on space situational awareness has not kept up with this growing footprint in space or the challenges it raises,” said Committee Chair Rep. Don Beyer, D-Va. “The bill we introduced today is our best attempt to direct inter-agency traffic and establish clearly defined roles for key players on space situational awareness, including the Department of Commerce and NASA.”