Operating through UK Space Command, the JCO-Global initiative has set up its first cell outside the US for Space Domain Awareness (SDA), the RAF announced 4 July.

From 26 June, the JCO-UK cell began providing unclassified indications of orbital activity, with the mission to monitor launches and objects in space.

“As JCO-UK crew, we are very excited to begin daily operations. It has been a privilege to work with partner nations and learn from our colleagues at JCO-Americas,” said Flight Lieutenant Nick Hallchurch, JCO-UK team lead. “Our focus will be to produce timely, high-quality Notices to Space Operators (NOTSO) during our operating hours, a key step in our collective ambition to deliver 24-hour ‘follow-the-sun’ operations.”

SDA is one of the top UK space capability development priorities, and acts as a fundamental enabler for other space capabilities. The objectives are to protect and defend space systems against relevant threats and hazards, to monitor spacecraft for compliance with regulatory and international agreements, to provide coherent civil and military space domain awareness, and to increase data and information sharing with international partners.

The JCO’s ‘follow-the-sun’ model is aimed at providing global SDA coverage within normal business hours. As the programme expands to include more partner nations, it is anticipated that the JCO will move to 24 hour global operations, five days a week in fiscal year 2024.

“The stand-up of JCO-UK marks a step forward in building out our follow-the-sun model for 24/7 operations,” said Brigadier General Dennis Blythewood, Commander of Joint Task Force. “Each Ally and partner brings people, resources, or capability that makes the JCO stronger, leveraging ever-increasing commercial capabilities to ensure norms of behavior in space.”

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The US-led JCO Programme, or ‘Joint Task Force-Space Defense Commercial Operations Cell’ was established in 2020 to augment the United States National Space Defense Center’s protect-and-defend mission. It uses public research, commercial SDA sensors and analytical tools in a collaborative mix of government, military and commercial teams.

“This initial expansion of commercial SDA support to the JTF-SD mission set is another milestone in the USSF strategy of ‘exploit what you have, buy what you can, and build only what you must,” said Barbara Golf, Strategic Adviser for Space Domain Awareness to the US Space Force’s Space Systems Command. “JCO-UK has been leading the charge into global commercial operations, and our lessons learned together will help us deploy new capabilities faster for our combined missions.”