Space Policy Directive 3 Brings Space Traffic Coordination to Commerce

U.S Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross praised President Donald J. Trump’s signing of Space Policy Directive 3 (SPD-3), America’s first National Space Traffic Management Policy.  The policy acknowledges the rapidly increasing volume and diversity of commercial space activity and announces that the Department of Commerce should be the new civil agency interface for space traffic management (STM) and space situational awareness (SSA).  

“I commend President Trump and the National Space Council for reaching yet another important milestone as we work to ensure U.S. commercial leadership in space,” said Secretary Ross. “I look forward to working closely with DoD and other departments and agencies as we meet the challenge of increased commercial and civil space traffic.”

SPD-3 establishes foundational principles, lays out achievable goals, and provides specific guidance to achieve each goal.  It emphasizes safety, stability, and sustainability, foundational elements to successful space activities. The Department of Commerce will work closely with the Department of Defense (DoD) to develop a plan to transfer the responsibilities for commercial dissemination of SSA data and STM.

Currently the DoD’s USSTRATCOM officers at the Joint Space Operations Center (JSpOC) collect SSA data and create the authoritative catalog of space objects.  JSpOC will continue to maintain this catalog, but Commerce will transition to provide basic SSA data and collision avoidance support services to the public.

“Given that there are over 800 operational American satellites amidst a sea of space debris numbering over 600,000, efforts must be taken to protect those significant investments,” continued Ross. “The transition will allow DoD to concentrate on its main objective, defending and securing the United States in both Earth and space. Communicating with various space companies and providing basic SSA data for innovative commercial applications will become the province of Commerce.”

Commerce’s STM and SSA efforts will be coordinated by its new Space Policy Advancing Commercial Enterprise (SPACE) Administration.  The SPACE Administration will soon oversee all Department space activities, including the existing Office of Space Commerce and the Commercial Remote Sensing Regulatory Affairs office, presently housed in the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.  The addition of space traffic management responsibilities will further establish the SPACE Administration as a voice for the space industry in the Federal Government.

Today’s announcements demonstrate the Department and Administration’s continued emphasis of the importance of developing and supporting the U.S. commercial space industry.

Secretary Ross and the Department of Commerce will work with President Trump, Vice President Pence, the National Space Council, Congress, and private industry as America continues its leadership in space.