Omaha Public Radio News
6:52 am
Fri December 2, 2011

NOAA honors five members of USSTRATCOMM with a prestigious award

Omaha, NE – The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration honored a team of five from the United States Strategic Command and its Joint Functional Component Command for Space with an Administrator Award in October.

Award-winner US Air Force Major Duane Bird is Space Situational Awareness Officer. He says the team created a method to provide positional data on 1,100 active satellites and about 22,000 trackable pieces of space debris. The team runs algorithms to predict the future positions of both.

Major Bird says if the team predicts a close approach between two objects, they will notify the satellite's owner/operator, no matter the nationality. He says this highly accurate positional data enables the satellite operator to conduct maneuver planning in an optimal, fuel-efficient manner.

"We are so dependent on services from satellites in space, that if the space environment were to be more polluted, we would, as a nation, have some serious issues to deal with. If we couldn't receive weather data from space, if we could not receive data for our GPS systems in our cars, if the banking systems could not receive precise timing information, we would have some serious problems."

Since the implementation of the new data sharing policies and procedures, an average of one collision warning message per week is sent.

In April, warnings sent helped avoid a major collision.