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News | Dec. 6, 2021

Collaboration Keeps Eyes on Southern Skies

Joint Task Force-Space Defense

The Department of Commerce, Joint Task Force-Space Defense, Air Forces South and the Chilean Air Force completed a series of space situational awareness experiments during the JTF-SD’s November 2021 Sprint Advanced Concept Training series.

For the first time, JTF-SD partnered with Chile, to work through simulated space launch and tracking events as a beginning step toward closer cooperation in SSA. Satellite measurements taken enabled the JTF-SD commercial operation cell to actively track assets, from Chile, in near real-time.

“The Sprint Advanced Concept Training community is especially excited to welcome Chile, the first South American participant, into our international space operations and space situational awareness experiment series,” said Joe Gerber, aerospace engineer with the JTF-SD Commercial Operations cell.

Gerber was joined by Barbara Golf, JTF-SD systems engineer, who led their team in a planned experiment in partnership with the Chilean Air Force, Chile’s University of La Serena, the U.S. Air Force Academy Falcon Telescope program, the U.S. Department of Commerce, U.S. Space Command, and U.S. Southern Command.

The JTF-SD leads SACT experiment campaigns three times per year to test and evaluate novel concepts for difficult or emerging space domain awareness challenges. 

Lt. Col. Robert Wray, Military Advisor to the U.S. Department of State, highlighted the importance of the experiment.

“We are excited to have Chile introduce new resources and a different geographic perspective to this training event,” Wray explained.

Recently, the Chilean Air Force announced its aim to begin a “new space age” with the launch of ten satellites between 2021 and 2025, according to a Ministry of Defense of Chile statement during the Space Symposium earlier this year.

"Through space, we seek to reduce the digital divide, the technological divide, increase the quality of life of people and, of course, security and drive towards a more sustainable and digital economy," said Col. Luis Felipe Sáez, then deputy director of Space Affairs of the Chilean Air Force, at the 36th Annual Space Symposium, which took place in Colorado Springs, from Aug. 23 to 26. (Sáez now serves as the Director of Space Affairs.)


In August, members gathered at Catalyst Campus to learn about the JTF-SD’s commercial operations cell and how they could partner in the future, laying the groundwork for this collaboration.


“The work we have done with our South American partners has been truly outstanding and has presented countless opportunities for collaborative growth across the space enterprise,” said Maj. Nick Snyder, JTF-SD Chief of Civil, Commercial, and Allied Integration Office. “The foundation we are setting and the experiments we intend to explore will not only assist the JTF-SD and USSPACECOM in establishing the bedrock to integrate other international partners, but empowers the space ‘protect and defend’ mission across the international community.”

Through a series of virtual and in-person meetings, JTF-SD and the Air Force Southern established the collaboration in this SACT.

“The SACT is a major space security cooperation milestone between the U.S. and Chile,” said Lt. Col. Jonathan Whitaker, U.S. Southern Command Director of Space Forces. “It strengthens our relationship with a regional leader and future operational SSA partner.”

Snyder said the partnerships are vital to space operations, enabling sharing and integration of information among U.S. allies and partners.

“Chile’s geography is fantastic for critical South Pole coverage of objects in low earth orbit,” Snyder added. “Their willingness to develop a sensor and establish working relationships with our JTF-SD commercial operations cell could be an absolute game changer for our mission. We look forward to a very bright future with our neighbors to the south.”