The Space Data Integrator (SDI)

Thursday, April 13, 2023

The Space Data Integrator (SDI) is the first of several new capabilities that the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) is developing to further the safe integration of launch and reentry vehicles into the National Airspace System (NAS). SDI is an operational prototype that will receive and distribute launch and reentry data for initial use within the NAS to enable improved situational awareness and airspace management decision-making.

While Launch and Reentry Operators (LROs) monitor their missions and vehicles in real-time, the FAA relied heavily on manual processes to retrieve and communicate space data. To monitor a mission, the FAA Air Traffic Organization (ATO) Space Operations team, located at the David J. Hurley Air Traffic Control System Command Center (ATCSCC), would manually gather operational data and send the data using FAA communications tools to adapt airspace usage with launch and reentry operations. SDI will provide some much-needed automation to improve the current operation.

How Does SDI Work?
The SDI operational prototype is designed to accept launch and reentry vehicle state vector data gathered from operators such as vehicle position, altitude, and speed. SDI will then process the data, display it, and distribute it to Traffic Flow Management System (TFMS). SDI allows the FAA to track the actual versus planned trajectory of launch and reentry operations, the status of various mission events, and the display of Aircraft Hazard Areas (AHAs). SDI sends vehicle position and AHAs to the TFMS for display on the TFMS Traffic Situation Display at the Command Center.

Launching the SDI, along with time-based procedural improvements, the FAA will begin to more dynamically manage the airspace, resulting in reduced duration of closed airspace to other NAS users as the mission progresses. The FAA will also respond more effectively to contingencies and release airspace back to the NAS more quickly. 

SDI is one of many collaborative efforts in which the FAA has worked closely with industry stakeholders to identify opportunities to improve situational awareness to safely reduce the duration of closed airspace necessary for a launch or reentry operation, improve response effectiveness and timeliness for contingencies during launch or reentry operations, and release closed airspace back to day-to-day flight operations quickly.

Beyond SDI
Today, the ATO Space Operations team at the Command Center has the SDI operational prototype they can use, as a decision support tool, to make operational decisions while the FAA continues to refine and validate requirements. SDI is the foundational component for integrating space operations into the NAS.

In the future, new concepts will follow that further mature space integration efforts with NAS automation systems.  Additional capabilities in research include enhanced situational awareness on air traffic controller displays and improved monitoring and alerting for mission conformity. These capabilities will allow air traffic to better manage, route, and schedule aircraft during launch and reentry operations. This integration will ensure safety as the FAA keeps pace with the increasing frequency and complexity of launch and reentry operations.

The end goal is to ensure we can optimize the safety, efficiency, and integration of space operations using our advanced automation tools and procedural improvements. This will allow the FAA to use the data to make more efficient airspace management decisions and improve situational awareness.

Check out our Space Operations in the NAS video to learn more.