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The Department for Transport (DfT) has determined that Launch Collision Avoidance Analysis (LCOLA) will be carried out by the 18th Space Defense Squadron (18 SDS). An operator will need to enter a sharing agreement with US Space Command (USSPACECOM).

The initial contact address for a launch provider or for a satellite owner/operator to begin discussions about an SSA Sharing Agreement is 18SPCS.doo.SSASharing@us.af.mil

The Space Industry Regulations 2021 (Regulation 101, Schedule 1) states that operators should carry out activities taking reasonable steps to avoid interfering with other space activities, and to limit or prevent major accident hazards to the health, safety, and property of other space objects.

Operators are also required to avoid the release of space debris and avoid any collision between the launch vehicle and its payload after separation with other space objects.

As an operator, to meet safety and sustainability requirements you will need to identify the risks from your activities impacting others in outer space and what risk control measures you need to take to mitigate those risks.

You should consider the following potential hazardous events and whether they apply to your operations, and then record the outcomes of these in your safety case:

  • Is there a chance that your space object could impact a crewed spacecraft? (Potential major accident hazard)
  • Could your space object impact another operational space object including the ejected payload? (Potential major accident hazard)
  • Could your space object collide with space debris that can be tracked and potentially avoided?
  • Could your space object be affected by small, unavoidable debris that is too small to be tracked?

The guidance material (CAP2213) specifies that the spaceflight operator must take reasonable steps to avoid interfering with space activities of another person and demonstrate appropriate monitoring methods. Monitoring methods could include external tracking of the vehicle, reception of telemetry or other signals from the launch vehicle or visual means where appropriate.

Launch Collision Avoidance Analysis (LCOLA) is a screening process to identify the possibility of collisions with other space objects such as existing debris, assets, spacecraft, and personnel during the launch. The importance of this is growing because of increased orbital debris, number of active satellites and operations of the ISS (as well as other permanently crewed space stations)

In line with the DfT policy statement, the CAA will adopt the approach taken by USSPACECOM (As found in 14 CFR 450 Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) document) and the current criteria used by the Federal Aviation Authority (FAA) which are:

  Separation Distance Protect public health and safety Safety of property U.S. National Security of foreign policy interests International Obligations Avoid Debris Generation 
Inhabitable Objects 200 km Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
Active Satellites  25 km  Not applicable  Yes Yes Yes Yes
Trackable Debris >10 cm(LEO)  2.5 km Not applicable  Not applicable  Yes, if it creates significant debris Yes, if it creates significant debris  Yes
Un-Trackable Debris <10 cm2 (LEO) Not applicable Not applicable  Not applicable  Not applicable Not applicable  Protect with shielding and design
  • Screen duration of launches should be at least 100 minutes after payload separation or 3 hours if previous coordination with USSPACECOM has been missed
  • Operators must obtain a collision avoidance analysis no later than 3 hours before the planned launch or re-entry window. If it needs to be rescheduled, then it must be completed 12 hours before the new planned window

Space objects (especially smaller objects and debris) may be a source of hazard from collisions that cannot be avoided. Where reasonably practicable, space objects may be fitted with shielding or other protective measures to mitigate any damage that might occur to it during a collision. Not all space objects can fit shielding though due to cost and prohibitive mass of the object, but a common method is using technology such as ablative plating like some military vehicles (such as Whipple Shield technology).

The CAA must be satisfied that the risks of any spaceflight activity are ALARP and acceptable, including the risks of collisions.  Applicants are required to demonstrate this through their safety case by:

  • Identifying whether any of the hazardous scenarios have the potential to be credible for their proposed launch activities.
  • Demonstrating that they have the necessary arrangements in place with the USSPACECOM to carry out LCOLA assessments on their behalf.
  • Demonstrating they have the shared internal processes to implement closure windows in the launch window in response to the LCOLA assessment from the USSPACECOM.
  • Where appropriate, demonstrating that they have sufficient shielding measures in place (including design specifications relevant to this).

Once licenced, prior to every launch operators must work with USSPACECOM to carry out the LCOLA assessment and use the information to define the closure window in the launch window. 

Licensees will need to submit evidence confirming this has been completed. These requirements will be a condition on the licence, set out in the oversight and monitoring plan.