Space Situational Awareness Satellites


November Space Council Meetings Could Shape Commercial Regulations

The National Space Council asked for comment on new commercial space systems and how the commercial space sector could be regulated during a pair of online meetings set for November. The council wants input from industry and the public. The move is part of a Biden Administration push to deal with issues including crowded orbits and the safety of space tourists.

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Rivals Launch Military Satellites Amid U.S.-led Space Defense Drills

A flurry of military and intelligence satellite launches by rival powers this month came as the United States and two dozen partner nations wrapped up the largest global space defense wargame in history.

Russia launched what some leaders have described as a spy satellite for Iran and its own on-orbit snooping satellite Cosmos-2558, which is circling Earth in an orbit conspicuously close to a recently launched U.S. National Reconnaissance Office satellite, a Netherlands researcher confirmed.

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2016 – Canada: Sapphire and NEOSSat – Snapshot

Two low Earth orbiting Canadian satellites, Sapphire and NEOSSat, provided spaceborne space situational awareness (SSA) for Canada during 2016. While they are both SSA satellites, they fulfill different SSA missions. Sapphire, a Canadian Department of National Defence (DND) satellite launched in 2013, is a part of the Canadian Space…

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2016 – U.S.: ATRR, GSSAP, ANGELS, and SBSS – Snapshot

The U.S. Air Force (USAF) continued adding space situational awareness (SSA) satellites to the nation’s operational military SSA satellite inventory during 2016. By the end of the year, seven satellites made up the nation’s unclassified SSA fleet. These were the Automated Navigation and Guidance Experiment for Local Space (ANGELS), Advanced Technology…

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2015 – Canada: Sapphire and NEOSSat – Snapshot

Canadian SSA operations are conducted using two satellites: Sapphire and NEOSSat. The Canadian Department of National Defence (DND) uses Sapphire, which moves around the Earth in a sun-synchronous orbit to detect the reflections of other objects in space. It entered its five-year operational phase in early 2014, monitoring thousands of space objects every 24 hours in 2015. Data collected from Sapphire is shared with the U.S. Space Surveillance Network.

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2014 – U.S.: GSSAP, ANGELS, and SBSS

In February 2014, the USAF took the unusual step of publicly announcing the existence of classified space situational awareness satellites. In the initial announcement, General William Shelton stated that the Geosynchronous Space Situational Awareness Program (GSSAP) satellites will provide more accurate locations and data about satellites and perhaps debris orbiting the Earth. The first ## of ## GSSAP satellites were launched to GEO in July 2014, and the USAF intends to launch ## more satellites in 2016.

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2014 – Canada: Sapphire

Launched in February 2013 and fully operational as of January 2014, the Canadian Department of National Defence’s (DND’s) Sapphire satellite was designed to provide data about space objects orbiting the Earth. Sapphire is in a sun-synchronous low Earth orbit of ## kilometers (## miles). Sapphire’s orbit around the Earth aligns with the Sun in such a way to allow its telescope to see the brightest reflections possible of other objects in space.

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2013 – U.S.: SBSS

The U.S. Space Based Surveillance System (SBSS) satellite, launched in 2010, uses an optical sensor to detect objects in space as it orbits around Earth. It has an expected lifespan of 5.5 years and was designed as a pathfinder for a proposed series of similar satellites.

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2013 – Canada: Sapphire

The ability to minimize false detections of missile launches is a feature of Canada’s Sapphire spacecraft, launched in February 2013. The C$## million (US$## million) spacecraft, which features a unique orbit that positions it to track light reflected off of objects in space, offers space surveillance data to both Canada and the United States. Canada’s Sapphire satellite began contributing data on orbiting space objects to the Space Surveillance Network (SSN) system in January 2014.

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