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News | Aug. 2, 2022

USSPACECOM’s Scotty Van Sant Presented Colombian Ad Astra Medal by President of the Republic of Colombia

By Sean Castillano

Scotty Van Sant, U.S. Space Command’s Space Situational Awareness (SSA) Data Sharing Program manager, was awarded the Colombian Ad Astra Medal by the President of the Republic of Colombia, Iván Duque Márquez, on July 28, 2022.
Van Sant was presented the award due to a history of involvement with the Colombian military’s growing space program. This began with a subject matter expert exchange in Bogota in 2019, and culminated in being the lead negotiator for the US-Colombia SSA signed in 2021.
The award was presented during a ceremony in which the Republic of Colombia opened their Space Operations Center (SpOC) at Marco Fidel Suarez Air Base in Cali, Colombia. Van Sant said the opening of the SpOC was a testament to Colombia’s commitment to a successful and long-lasting space program.
“When we were in Cali in 2019, we were shown the plans for the eventual space operations center,” he said. “To see this progress, despite COVID-19, in such rapid fashion is amazing.”
As the manager of USSPACECOM’s SSA data sharing program, Van Sant has been the lead negotiator for 25 of 33 governmental agreements going back as far as Italy in 2013 and more recently with India in 2022. This program allows the U.S. government to share data with like-minded governments in the interest of safety of spaceflight and long-term sustainability of the space domain.
“We often travel to other nations to do face to face negotiations,” said Van Sant. “This allows us to establish relationships, and in most cases, build enduring friendships.”
The Colombian government awards the Ad Astra Medal to individuals whose professional services provided benefit to the space development of Colombia and the Colombian Air Force. Although Van Sant often works with partner nations, he was surprised and proud to be recognized by a government other than his own.
“It’s all very humbling and I’m tremendously honored to be able to receive this from their government,” he said. “I’m also very excited that the stand-up of their operations center provided me an opportunity to receive the award in-person.”
U.S. Space Command signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) with the Colombian Air Force on Aug. 25, 2021. This MOU is meant to increase the exchange of information, harmonize military space requirements, and identify potential collaborative studies, projects, or activities. Van Sant believes Colombia is a strong ally in the space domain.
“Colombia has been a US partner in Latin America for decades in the other domains, especially air,” said Van Sant. “As Colombia begins to establish themselves as a space faring nation, it’s fantastic that they are reaching out to the United States for guidance and support as they develop their space enterprise.”
U.S. Space Command has over 30 SSA data sharing agreements with allied and partner nations. These agreements are foundational in promoting a safe, stable, sustainable, and secure space environment.