2004 August 3
Updated 2007 May 16
As a result of legislation passed by the US Congress and signed into law on 2003 November 24 (Public Law 108-136, Section 913), Air Force Space Command (AFSPC) has embarked on a three-year pilot program to provide space surveillance data—including NORAD two-line element sets (TLEs)—to non-US government entities (NUGE). This service was to be established "not later than 180 days after the date of the enactment" of Section 913 or by 2004 May 22 (paragraph (i)). AFSPC officials have indicated that the NASA OIG web site—which is the source of CelesTrak's data—would be operated until 2004 October 1 (less than two months from today) to allow users to get the information necessary to plan their transition to this new data service. This transition time is extremely important because Public Law 108-136 prohibits the redistribution of the data obtained from this new NUGE service "without the express approval of the Secretary" [of Defense] (paragraph (d)(2)).
Unfortunately, as of this date, AFSPC has yet to establish this service or even notify the satellite user community of the pending change in data dissemination practices. As a result, there is no information on the timeline for the transition, the process required to obtain access to the new system, the policies regarding who can obtain data, how much they can obtain, and how frequently, or even the specific system processes required for users to integrate the new data source into their existing processes. Without this information and sufficient time to notify users and allow them to implement the necessary changes, a wide variety of current satellite operations activities may be adversely impacted.
If you are concerned about this state of affairs and would like to be kept abreast of changes, please provide your name, organization, and e-mail address below and we will ensure you are kept up to date as the situation evolves. In addition, if you would like to briefly describe what you currently use TLEs for and how your operations would be impacted if this data were interrupted—even for a short period of time—please provide that information, as well. We will be collecting this information to pass to Congress and AFSPC to ensure your concerns are heard.
While CelesTrak will not be going away as a result of these changes, and we are still hoping the US Secretary of Defense will grant CelesTrak the same authority to redistribute the TLEs we have enjoyed for the past nearly 20 years, it appears that CelesTrak may soon be unable to continue to provide TLE data to the satellite user community. It has been my honor to have provided this service to this community since the days of the Celestial RCP/M BBS in Austin, Texas back in 1985. I hope that I can help each of you to successfully transition to the new NUGE service.
— T.S. Kelso
Update #4 (2004 September 14): The following notice went out on the NASA/GSFC OIG web site today:
Per Public Law 108-136 (The National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2004), Section 913 (Pilot Program for the Provision of Space Surveillance Network Services to Non-United States Government Entities), the U.S. Department of Defense will be standing up a new website (currently not operational) for distribution of the information that is currently provided by the NASA OIG website. Implementation of this new website is being worked by the U.S. Air Force, specifically, Air Force Space Command, and NASA has been working closely with them in this effort. For the Air Force Space Command status of this new website click on the Space-Track Web Site link below. As indicated in the status announcement, once the new website is finalized, NASA plans to discontinue the OIG website, with the actual date of termination still to be determined. 09/14/2004
The link mentioned in the message currently goes to the following page:
Air Force Space Command (AFSPC) is establishing a pilot program to provide the space surveillance support that NASA has provided to Commercial and Foreign Entities (CFE) for many years. Authorization for this program was signed into law on November 24, 2003.
In the pilot program the Air Force, through the CFE Space-Track website, will distribute Two Line Elements (TLEs), satellite catalog messages, satellite decay messages, Project TIP messages, and most of the miscellaneous messages currently offered by the NASA Orbital Information Group (OIG) website. The data will be provided with the same latency that has been provided by the NASA OIG website for many years.
There are approximately 1115 current, active OIG user accounts. These accounts will be transferred from the OIG website to the Space-Track website but OIG users will still have to register their Space-Track user account. To register their Space-Track accounts, the first time OIG users login to the Space-Track website they should use their existing OIG username and use "OIG" as the password. A temporary password will be e-mailed to the e-mail address of record for their OIG account. OIG users will be able to access the Space-Track website after logging in with the temporary password and then changing their password. Space-Track users without an existing OIG account will need to complete the New User Registration process to establish a Space-Track account. All Space-Track users will be subject to the terms of the Space-Track website user agreement. Also, the Space-Track website will probably require a different script if you have an automated process.
NASA is working closely with AFSPC in this effort to ensure a smooth transition of operations. The pilot program and the transition from the NASA OIG web site to the CFE Space-Track web site will commence when we have received direction from the Secretary of Defense as required by Public Law 108-136, Section 913, 10 U.S.C. §2274 (i). Initially the CFE Space-Track website will have a limited, baseline capability. The Space-Track website will then ramp up in the following months to replicate the required data and functionality offered by the OIG. There will be dual OIG website and CFE website operations for 90 days during this transition period. The final transition and shutdown date of the NASA OIG web site is still to be determined.
Update #5 (2004 September 21): The following materials were provided by Lt Col Maloney, AFSPC/XOCS, from the materials presented at the AMOS Technical Conference last week regarding the Commercial and Foreign Entities (CFE) Pilot Program:
Update #6 (2004 November 5): The following material was provided by Lt Col Maloney, AFSPC/XOCS, from the materials presented at the Space Operations Safety Workshop last month regarding the Commercial and Foreign Entities (CFE) Pilot Program:
Update #7 (2004 December 30): The following notice was just posted on the NASA/GSFC OIG web site today:
Air Force Space Command has received the delegation of authority from, and been assigned the responsibility of, the Secretary of Defense to conduct the CFE Pilot Program. There will be dual OIG website and CFE website operations for 90 days during this transition period. However, the OIG website will no longer be accepting new users. The CFE Space Track website will begin registering new users on 01/03/2005. Please go to the link below and logon. The final transition and shutdown date of the NASA OIG web site is still to be determined. 12/30/2004
The Space-Track site is not yet available, but the "link below" (referred to above) contains the following new information:
Space-Track Web Site
CFE Announcement #2 (30 Dec 04)
Air Force Space Command has received the delegation of authority from, and been assigned the responsibility of, the Secretary of Defense to conduct the CFE Pilot Program The CFE Space-Track website is located at http://www.space-track.org.
Update #8 (2005 January 3): The Space Track web site is now available at http://www.space-track.org. I encourage each of you to apply for a new account there as soon as possible and let me know if there are any problems. — TS
Update #9 (2005 January 11): According to the notice posted on the NASA/GSFC OIG web site yesterday (below), they will cease operation on 2005 March 31. CelesTrak will continue to disseminate TLEs until that date, but will be unable to do so starting April 1 (under the terms of US Public Law 108-136). If you have not done so already, I encourage you to obtain a Space Track account (http://www.space-track.org) as soon as possible in preparation for this transition. — TS
Air Force Space Command has received the delegation of authority from, and been assigned the responsibility of, the Secretary of Defense to conduct the CFE Pilot Program. There will be dual OIG website and CFE website operations for 90 days during this transition period. However, the OIG website will no longer be accepting new users. The CFE Space Track website will begin registering new users on 01/03/2005. Please click on the Space-Track Web Site link on the OIG Main Page for the website URL. The final transition and shutdown date of the NASA OIG web site is March 31, 2005. 01/10/2005
Update #10 (2005 February 11): After a week without any new data from the NASA/GSFC OIG web site, the following notice was posted there today:
The OIG web site has encountered severe technical difficulties which cannot be overcome. The OIG web site will continue to run a once per day update of TLEs. Real time updates cannot be done. Please go to the Space-Track web site for real time data. The OIG site will be permanently disabled on 3/31/05. If other problems are encountered to render the site useless, a notice will be posted to the Space-Track web site. 02/11/2005
It would appear that the promise of a 90-day transition period promised on the OIG web site a month ago is now in jeopardy, despite everything NASA has done this week to attempt to restore their site. All users are strongly encouraged to register on the Space Track web site as soon as possible and to look to CelesTrak on Monday for alternative applications to make accessing your Space Track account easier and more reliable. — TS
Update #11 (2005 February 14): If you have not yet obtained a Space Track account, it appears that it is now urgent that you get one as soon as possible. The following notice was posted on the NASA OIG web site today:
As of February 10, 2005 the NASA/GSFC OIG web site experienced non-recoverable hardware and software failures. As of Monday 2/14/05 no further attempts to recover the system will be made. Please go to the Space-Track web site for TLE information. 02/14/2005
It appears there will be no new data from NASA, despite the promise of a 90-day transition period. If you are adversely affected by this decision (e.g., your data processes have not yet been migrated), you should express your concern to Donna Sadof, the Civil Service Manager of the NASA OIG. CelesTrak and Space Track will be unable to help with this decision.
As promised, initial capabilities to provide standard CelesTrak data sets via your Space Track user account are underway. The initial capability is now available, but has several limitations. You can find out more about this preliminary service by going to http://celestrak.com/SpaceTrack/background.asp.
Update #12 (2005 February 18):
URGENT: YOUR ACTION REQUIRED NOW
CelesTrak held extended discussions again with Air Force Space Command (AFSPC) Wednesday afternoon to continue to work to develop a solution to address the unexpected failure of the NASA OIG web site on February 4. CelesTrak offered several ways that we could help both NASA and AFSPC fulfill their promise to this community to provide data for a 90-day transition period, but these offers were all declined. As a result, it looks like there will be little or no new TLE data out of either OIG or CelesTrak.
I know that many of you have looked to CelesTrak to work these issues on your behalf over the past year and we have done everything we can to meet your expectations. However, as a result, AFSPC does not believe there is a problem because they have only heard CelesTrak complaining. You are one of 1,488 users who have registered for these updates, but that is only about 5% of the over 27,000 active CelesTrak users.
If you are concerned about this outcome, you need to do one of two things:
If AFSPC receives only a few complaints, then all users will have little choice but to take Action 1 as soon as possible. However, if they receive a significant response from the tens of thousands of CelesTrak users, there is still hope that we may be able to continue toward an orderly transition date of April 1. The choice is up to you now. Please be sure to forward this message to as many other TLE users as you can. — TS
Update #13 (2005 March 17): The commander of Air Force Space Command has just approved an Interim CFE Data/Analysis Redistribution Approval Process in an effort to support the smooth transition of users to the new services provided by the Space Track web site. Detailed information on this process and how to apply for interim redistribution approval can be found at:
Update #14 (2005 March 25): On 2005 March 24, CelesTrak received the following message from Air Force Space Command authorizing redistribution of Space Track data:
Your request to redistribute CFE Pilot Program data/analysis (TLEs and Space Situation Report (SSR) data) obtained from the Space-Track web site (http://www.space-track.org) via the CeleTrak web site (http://celestrak.com/) has been approved on 24 Mar 2005 in accordance with Air Force Space Command Commander's authority dated 8 November 2004.
This approval is valid for one year or until application of the formal redistribution process is implemented and this redistribution request is addressed in accordance with that process, whichever occurs first. If valid for one year, please revalidate this request on an annual basis and submit a new USSTRATCOM Form 1 (with appendices) no later than 2 weeks before the anniversary date of this approval (24 Mar 2006).
If you rely on CelesTrak for your data, you should be able to continue
getting your data in the same manner you have been in the past. This approval
should considerably ease the pressure to migrate your existing processes and
allow you to do this in a more orderly way. However, since this process is
only for an interim period, all users are strongly encouraged to apply for a
Space Track account as soon as possible and to continue working to migrate
your current processes to use the new Space Track
Update #15 (2006 March 27): On 2006 March 6, CelesTrak received reauthorization from Air Force Space Command to redistribute Space Track data:
This approval is valid for one year or until application of the formal redistribution process is implemented and this redistribution request is addressed in accordance with that process, whichever occurs first. If valid for one year, please revalidate this request on an annual basis and submit a new USSTRATCOM Form 1 (with appendices) no later than 2 weeks before the anniversary date (27 February 2006 2007) of this approval.
As for the past 20 years, if you rely on CelesTrak for your data, you
should be able to continue getting your data in the same manner you have been
in the past. This approval should ease the pressure to migrate your existing
processes and allow you to do this in a more orderly way. However, since this
approval is only for an interim period, all users are strongly encouraged to
apply for a Space Track account as soon as possible and to continue working to
migrate your current processes to use the new Space Track
Update #16 (2007 May 16): Legislation passed by the US Congress and signed into law on 2006 October 17 (Public Law 109-364, Section 912) extends the NUGE pilot program through 2009 September 30. It modifies 10 USC Section 2274(i) to read:
(i) DURATION OF PILOT PROGRAM.—The pilot program under this section may be conducted through September 30, 2009.
In addition, CelesTrak has received continuing authority to redistribute Space Track data "until superseded by formal updated documentation signed out by either the AFSPC/A3 or 14 AF/CC." A notice regarding the results of this decision will be posted here as soon as they become available. — TS
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Dr. T.S. Kelso
Follow CelesTrak on Twitter @TSKelso
Last updated: 2007 May 16 16:43:00 UTC
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