The Commerce Department is finalizing a deal that would give it access to the Air Force’s space situational awareness data, the head of the department’s Office of Space Commerce said June 26. Such a move would be a key step forward in Commerce’s effort to develop a repository of sensor data for commercial companies.

Director of the Office of Space Commerce Kevin O’Connell said the department was close to signing a final agreement with the Air Force Research Lab to gain access to the Unified Data Library — an effort to collect and integrate data from a number of Department of Defense and commercial SSA sensors. According to O’Connell, that library will serve as the base of the Commerce Department’s own cloud-based collection of SSA data called the open architecture data repository. That database will be provided to commercial companies to help them avoid collisions in space and limit the creation of even more space debris.

“What we are trying to do at Commerce, within our own efforts on SSA and also (space traffic management), is really to increase the quality and accuracy and the proper speed (SSA data) is sent to owner/operators so that they have a self interest in protecting themselves, getting out of the way...or collaborating with others to have to do the same thing,” said O’Connell. “That’s the central idea here--to create the right kinds of data for people to do this.”

In late spring, the Commerce Department issued a request for information asking what the commercial sector could bring to bear on the SSA and space traffic management problems, especially in relation to the development of that open architecture data repository. O’Connell said the department received 42 submissions by the May 23 deadline, and most of those responses indicated that enhanced standardized data sharing is essential to SSA as well as space debris removal and mitigation.

Incorporating data from allied countries and the commercial companies located within them is a goal for the department as it develops the open architecture data repository.

“One of the things we’ve explicitly considered from the outset...is how we’re going to bring in allied data, and allied commercial data specifically, into the open architecture data repository,” said O’Connell. “That’s not an afterthought. That’s something that we’re thinking about explicitly right at the front end.”

The department is still working to summarize responses top the request for information, he added, and will likely host an industry day to discuss once that’s done.