accurate probability of collision. For near-Earth orbiting satellites another limitation is understanding and modeling of the atmosphere.
In the JSpOC Mission System, or any other new systems the Air Force may develop, close attention will have to be paid to the architecture—both hardware and software—to handle current needs and unknown future needs, and innovation will have to be encouraged. For the system to be effective it will have to emphasize interoperability—for legacy users, and for more demanding users. However, true interoperability will require the development of international standardized astrodynamics algorithms, because the Air Force will have to interact and communicate with non-U.S. satellite owners and operators to a greater degree than it currently does.
Automation is key to addressing the growing and diverse demands of the user community as well as the limitations of Air Force military and civilian staffing. The architecture of the new system will have to consider the evolving opportunities for automation. All of these issues are addressed throughout this report. But if there is a single message of this study, it is that the Air Force needs to encourage a change in culture to emphasize openness—in the transparency of its algorithms, in the interaction of its people with the user community and the scientific community, and in its providing of a reasonable amount of sensor tracking data to the scientific community for testing algorithms.
Recommendation: While recognizing security issues, Air Force Space Command (AFSPC) should become more open and transparent in the creation and dissemination of its algorithms and products. Specifically:
• The newly created AFSPC Astrodynamics Advisory Committee should be modified to include a balance of internal (e.g., Air Force Research Laboratory, Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, Missile Defense Agency, etc.) and external subject-matter experts to encourage the introduction of new approaches and new ideas. Examples of external members include representatives from other federal agencies (e.g., the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the National Reconnaissance Office, etc.), research centers (such as federally funded research and development centers), commercial industry, and academia.
• AFSPC should create a process and an infrastructure to identify and incorporate improvements into the Joint Space Operations Center (JSpOC) and a way to evaluate candidate improvements (e.g., testbeds, benchmarks).
• AFSPC should expand opportunities for astrodynamics and computation specialists to participate in improving the algorithms used in the JSpOC Mission System. This expanded participation should be achieved by advocating for research initiatives and engaging members of the research community to serve as peer reviewers, and by appropriate sharing of data.
• The JSpOC should provide a database containing a reasonable amount of sensor tracking data that would be available to the research community for the development and validation of new algorithms that support space situational awareness.
The modelers and algorithm developers who support the JSpOC mission have developed an internal community that lacks sufficient two-way interaction with the larger research and user community. Their limited contact with the broader astrodynamics research community has resulted in a lack of knowledge of new algorithms whose implementation could potentially provide significant improvement to the current system.
Whereas in the 1980s and 1990s relatively little astrodynamics research was performed, the past 10-15 years have seen developments in nonlinear estimation methods, numerical integration techniques, dynamical systems theory, force modeling, etc., all of which could have a positive impact on astrodynamics and space situational awareness. The Air Force needs to take advantage of such research and continue to have a vibrant research program that will enhance U.S. astrodynamics capabilities. Thus the committee offers the following recommendation: