Re: oig data

From: Allen Thomson (
Date: Tue Feb 01 2005 - 18:09:06 EST

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    > There was a very interesting letter to the editor in Space News this  week 
    > on the new Space-Track program, by David Finkleman of Colorado
    Springs, called Data Restrictions,...
    Here's the letter, posted here with permission and a typo {corrected}:
    Data Restrictions
    Your report of the new Air Force Space-Track service ["U.S. Air Force Web 
    Site Providing Orbital Data," Jan. 17,  page 12] did not reveal the
    scope of new restrictions imposed on the U.S. astrodynamics community.
    You reported that users must agree not to share the information granted by 
    Space-Track.  The full text is "not to transfer any data, including, but not 
    limited to, the analysis of tracking data, or other information received 
    through this Web site or any services described herein to any third party 
    without the prior express approval of the Secretary of Defense or his 
    Restrictions on analyses performed with the data will impair the struggling 
    U.S. space enterprise.
    For decades satellite operators could use orbit elements derived from 
    Defense Department Space Surveillance Network observations. Under a 
    long-standing formal agreement, NASA distributed orbit data through its 
    Orbital Information Group (OIG) at Goddard. Dissemination and use of the 
    data was unrestricted to users in the United States. Similar information is 
    available to ESA members through the DISCOS service, which derives much of 
    its content from Air Force space surveillance products.
    A five-year journey to expand orbit data access to non-U.S. government 
    entities climaxed in PL 108-136, Section 91{4}, in the fall of 2003. 
    Concerned that prior users might be affected, the astrodynamics community 
    sought guidance on the new processes but received none. Rather than 
    expanding the availability of information worldwide, the manner in which 
    this initiative has been implemented imposes new and severe restrictions 
    even on long-standing NASA OIG subscribers. The OIG process has operated for 
    decades without ever compromising national security.
    PL 108-136 does not require terminating existing data sources such as the 
    NASA OIG. Nonetheless, the OIG will cease operation on or around April 1, 
    2005, 90 days from inception of Space-Track. Although there are only about 
    1,000 OIG users, more than 20,000 others benefit from the subsequent 
    value-added dissemination and analysis.
    The implementation described on the Space-Track Web site could end 
    value-added subsequent dissemination, encourage alternative satellite
    catalogs (marginalizing the United States' unique capability), impair 
    international efforts to mitigate space debris and prohibit all who use DoD
    space surveillance data in their research from discussing or publishing 
    their work without the approval of the Office of the Secretary of Defense.
    This was not the intent of PL 108-136.
    The issue will climax when the Air Force reveals the criteria for approval 
    and an objective process for granting approval, hopefully by interacting 
    with the United States' astrodynamics community. This must happen by April 
    1, 2005, or the trial period should be extended and the NASA OIG maintained 
    as long as necessary.
    This is a crisis.
    David Finkleman
    Colorado Springs, Colo.
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