Seeing Space Security: The role of space situational awareness for verification of future space arms control

When: Tuesday, November 10, 2020

Time: 10 am - 12 pm EST

Where: Virtual

Growing international concerns about the weaponization of outer space, and the greater potential for future armed conflict there, is reigniting interest in space arms control. One of the biggest challenges for the development of meaningful arms control for outer space is how such agreements could be verified. Some space arms control initiatives have focused on banning specific types of space objects, which critics have argued are difficult to verify. However, another approach is on arms-control measures focusing on specific actions that could be verified using space situational awareness (SSA) capabilities some States and non-governmental organizations are already developing.

This two-hour discussion hosted by Secure World Foundation (SWF) and the United Nations Institute for Disarmament Research (UNIDIR) examined the potential for using SSA to verify future space arms control agreements. It brought together experts from commercial, academic, and intergovernmental organizations to discuss current and emerging SSA capabilities as well as their limitations and lessons learned from other domains with existing verification regimes.



10:00 - Opening remarks - Peter Martinez 

10:05 - What can we see? A technical analysis of current SSA capabilities


  • Dan Ceperley is the CEO and cofounder of LeoLabs. He, and the founding team, created LeoLabs to drive advances in space traffic safety, space situational awareness (SSA), and preservation of the space environment through actionable, real-time information.Prior to LeoLabs, he worked at SRI International, a not-for-profit research laboratory, where he was the Program Director for Space Debris Tracking, the Deputy Director of the Oceans and Space Systems Center, and the supervisor for the Allen Telescope Array (a radio astronomy facility in northern California). Dr. Ceperley led numerous SSA research and development efforts aimed at developing technologies for tracking the large constellations of low-cost satellites created by the recent wave of innovation in the space industry. Dan got his start in the space industry working on the design of the Terrestrial Planet Finder Coronagraph (TPF-C) as part of a research program supporting the Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL).
  • Doug Hendrix is chief executive officer and co-founder of ExoAnalytic Solutions, Inc. For 25 years, Dr. Hendrix has developed advanced software solutions to enable the United States to maintain its technological superiority in EO/IR sensing for missile defense and space situational awareness. Dr. Hendrix has a broad professional background that ranges from research and development to commercial software development in the areas of atmospheric, underwater and nuclear explosions, hyper-velocity impacts, space weather, and the development of a commercial fusion reactor.
  • Moriba Jah is an Associate Professor of Aerospace Engineering and Engineering Mechanics at The University of Texas at Austin where he is the holder of the Mrs. Pearlie Dashiell Henderson Centennial Fellowship in Engineering. He’s the director for Computational Astronautical Sciences and Technologies (CAST), a group within the Oden Institute for Computational Engineering and Sciences as well as the Lead for the Space Security and Safety Program at the Robert Strauss Center for International Security and Law. Moriba came to UT Austin by way of the Air Force Research Laboratory and NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory prior to that, where he was a Spacecraft Navigator on a handful of Mars missions.
  • Regina Peldszus, PhD, is a Senior Policy Officer with the German space agency, DLR Space Administration, currently seconded to the Federal Ministry of Economic Affairs & Energy, where she focuses on space security and space surveillance in the national, European, and international context, and sits on the shadow committee overseeing the Space Situational Awareness component of the upcoming European Union space program. Prior to joining DLR, Regina was an Internal Research Fellow with the European Space Agency (ESA) at the European Space Operations Centre, Studies & Special Projects Division, analyzing resilience of mission control in critical phases. With a background in systems design, space and arctic studies, her interests focus on space from a complex systems perspective, including technology governance, resilience, dual-use, and ground-based infrastructure.

Moderator: Victoria Samson, SWF Washington Office Director 

11:00 - What can we do? Lessons and ideas from verification regimes


  • Asha Balakrishnan is a Research Staff Member at the Science and Technology Policy Institute (STPI), a Federally-Funded Research and Development Center that provides rigorous and objective analysis of science and technology policy issues for the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy. She brings engineering expertise to STPI work in the areas of space policy, program evaluation, advanced manufacturing and STEM education and workforce training. Recently, she has collaborated with colleagues on a number reports on space situational awareness, orbital debris issues, space traffic management and small satellite technologies. Balakrishnan has a BS in mechanical engineering from the University of Illinois. Both her MS and PhD are in mechanical engineering from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
  • Gunnar Jeremias is the head of the Research Group for Biological Arms Control at the University of Hamburg’s Centre for Science and Peace Research, where he is mainly involved in projects concerning biosecurity and the Biological Weapons Convention, specifically confidence-building measures and compliance monitoring based on open-source intelligence. He teaches on bioethics and the nexus of biology and peace research. Before he started working for the Research Group, he conducted a number of research projects in the area of bioethics and worked as a researcher for Greenpeace.
  • Larry MacFaul is Director of the Verification and Monitoring Programme at VERTIC and Deputy Executive Director (Acting) of the organization. His work focuses on technical, legal and policy issues in security and development including trafficking in radioactive materials, nuclear safeguards, nuclear disarmament verification, UN chemical and biological weapons investigations, conventional arms controls, Open Skies Treaty, UN Convention on Climate Change, and illegal production and trade in natural resources.

Moderator: John Borrie, UNIDIR

11:50 - Commentator: Brian Weeden, SWF Director of Program Planning 


For more information, please visit the UNIDIR event page or contact Washington Office Director Victoria Samson

Last updated on April 24, 2022