Archive for the ‘Space Surveillance’ Category

A groan-inducing article at The Diplomat asks the intentionally provocative question ‘Is the U.S. Starting an Asian Space Race?”

The answer, although you would never gather it from the article’s tone and presentation, is a resounding ‘no.’

The article uses the X-37, the re-usable space platform that looks like a quarter-scale space shuttle and launched earlier in the year, as a springboard to ominously suggest that such “ambiguous” U.S. space activities may “pose a strategic risk.” (more…)

The Delta II booster for STSS, the Space Tracking and Surveillance System, is on the pad and processing towards a 15 Sep launch. Processing can now proceed as the Air Force Delta II for the recent GPS II R-21(M) satellite was on an adjacent pad. With that mission having departed on the morning of 17 Aug, STSS processing is good to go.

STSS is a system of two low-flying satellites and funding has come from the Missile Defense Agency. The program had been cancelled at one point and there is a five year break in press releases at its web site. According to DoD Buzz, STSS will provide a massive breakthrough in tracking equivalencies: equal to about 50 AN/TPY-2s or 20 sea-based x-band radars.

Though this effort was MDA funded, it has very significant space situational awareness (SSA) implications. Having SSA, broadly and informally defined as the ability to understand what’s going on in space, is a major Air Force concern and possible growth-area within the space domain.

Air Force Space Command is responding to the on-orbit collision of a dead but still orbiting Russian Cosmos satellite and a functional Iridium satellite back in February 2009. The response includes plussing-up the number of operators working conjunction analysis from five to nine. Eventually AFSPC is looking at a 24-person staff to perform this mission which as currently envisioned, will support collision analysis of 800 maneuverable satellites. At the time of the collision, only about 140 satellites were being monitored for possible collisions.

Enhanced space surveillance will also involve hardware: more servers and computational power, of course, but also the new $1B Space Fence, which is planned to be employed in 2015 and the near-term Space-Based Space Surveillance satellite, which is to surveil each satellite residing in the geosynchronous belt once a day.

The Cosmos-Iridium event was indicative of Space Command’s less-capable-than-desired space surveillance and conjunction analysis capabilities. According to Lt Gen Larry James, AFSPC wants to eventually be able and track everything in space from launch to deorbit. All it takes is time and money