Part of the answer has to do with antiquated technology. “software development is one area where the Pentagon consistently falls on its ass,” Weeden says. “To give an example, when I was in the Air Force in 2004, we got told, ‘we’re going to train you to use these two computer systems, but don’t get attached because they’re getting replaced with something else in 2005.’ When I left in 2007, we were still using those two systems. And as far as I know, they’re still being used operationally.”
Another part of the answer has to do with a lack of international cooperation. “There’s not a lot of incentives to make the data available,” Weeden explains. Governments don’t want to disclose how much they know or expose operational secrets, and private companies don’t want to publicize anomalies with their assets because it might trigger insurance markets or cause bad PR. There are some commercial sellers of data, but they won’t give up their property without compensation.
Space is becoming increasingly militarized, and if states want to enforce arms controls in that domain, they will first need to monitor it. “There’s no global pool of observational data,” Jah laments. And an effective regulatory regime in space will be nearly impossible without it. As it stands, the vast expanse outside the Earth’s atmosphere, despite being vital to our internet, telecommunications, GPS, and countless other technologies, is the new wild west.