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Public Law 108-136 and TLEs



A couple of quick thoughts on the possible future challenges
amateurs may face in obtaining satellite surveillance data 
(TLEs) from NORAD.

First, I haven't found any congressional testimony on this section
of the bill, but it reads like the privitization of government
functions is an important (at least philosophical) component of
the bill.  I doubt that users of TLEs are going to make a 
sizable dent in the DoD or even NORAD budget, but I rather
suspect that some private concern thought that _they_ could
make some money by reselling TLEs.  Over the last few years,
there have been some interesting cases where the government
contracted with a private concern to collect data, and then the
private concern turned around and sold the data back to the
government. It will probably become apparent pretty quickly
that no one is going to make much money selling TLEs for amateur
satellites.

Second, it is possible that there is some national security
benefit from restricting the dissemination of TLEs, but it is rather
hard to imagine.  Certainly, the benefits of restricting the
dissemination of TLEs for amateur satellites seems pretty obscure.
Of course, there is still the issue that someone, who obviously
hasn't listened to hams enthusiastically describe the benefits
of running x386 hardware, may think they can make money on amateurs.

Third, it may be useful to start moving towards an amateur
infrastructure that can generate and distribute TLEs for
amateur satellites.  Of course, my solution would be to get
the government to fund the creation of this capability as a
research project.

Fourth, I was under the impression that NORAD counted on the
cooperation of satellite operators to, for example, identify
individual satellites within several that were launched
simultaneously.  I suggest that amateur satellite operators
start thinking about how to price this service we provide to
NORAD.

Finally, the AMSAT Board of Directors and the ARRL should
be actively and visible working this issue.  At a minimum,
I suggest that the AMSAT membership pass a resolution
at the October Space Symposium "directing" the Board to
pursue this issue.  My other modest proposal on this topic
is that AMSAT contract to distribute TLEs for amateur
satellites to its members.

-tjs
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