The Pentagon Is Declassifying Lots of Info About What’s in Orbit

Source: Popular Mechanics

These orders come from the top, and are part of the larger U.S. government effort to spur the commercialization of space. The largest sign of this change in policy is the transfer of space traffic management from the Pentagon to the Department of Commerce. U.S. Strategic Command officials say the move to declassify is “based on guidance in Space Policy Directive-3” which stipulates that Commerce will be responsible for making space safety data available to the public, while the Department of Defense will still be in charge of keeping an authoritative catalog of man-made space objects.

That catalog is accessible to the public via a website, The site provides what are called two-line element sets, or TLEs, that encode the position and probable movement of an object in orbit.

For example, amateur trackers are following the movements of an Advanced Extremely High Frequency (AEHF) satellite as it moves toward geostationary orbit. These satellites serve as emergency communication during a nuclear war. They can also defeat intentional jamming from enemies, surging their signal strength to overwhelm any noise, while nulling antennas pinpoint the attack and dampen the signal with counter-noise.

In other words, it’s the kind of satellite position that the Pentagon may not want to advertise accurately on a public website.

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