While many satellite operators are aware of the possibility of a collision between their satellite and another object in earth orbit, most seem unaware of the frequency of near misses occurring each day. Until recently, no service existed to advise satellite operators of an impending conjunction of a satellite payload with another satellite, putting the responsibility for determining these occurrences squarely on the satellite operator's shoulders. This problem has been further confounded by the lack of a timely, comprehensive data set of satellite orbital element sets and computationally efficient tools to provide predictions using industry-standard software. As a result, hundreds of conjunctions within 1 km occur each week, with little or no intervention, putting billions of dollars of space hardware at risk, along with their associated missions.
As a service to the satellite operator community, the Center for Space Standards & Innovation (CSSI) offers SOCRATES-Satellite Orbital Conjunction Reports Assessing Threatening Encounters in Space. Twice each day, CSSI runs a list of all satellite payloads on orbit against a list of all objects on orbit using the catalog of all unclassified NORAD two-line element sets to look for conjunctions over the next seven days. The runs are made using STK/CAT-Satellite Tool Kit's Conjunction Analysis Tools-together with the NORAD SGP4 propagator in STK. This paper will discuss how SOCRATES works and how it can help satellite operators avoid undesired close approaches through advanced mission planning.