Infrastructure

Space Situational Awareness Satellites


2016 – U.S. Commercial Space Surveillance – Snapshot

With increased demands for space traffic management (STM) and space situational awareness (SSA), commercial companies, such as Schafer Corporation, formed businesses during 2016 to meet the demand. These commercial STM and SSA providers are building their own space object catalogs and using commercial sensor networks to…

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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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Ground Components

The United States currently operates the most capable SSA system, the Space Surveillance Network (SSN). The SSN is composed of stations based around the globe that use a combination of radar and optical information to track objects in orbit. The system has impressive abilities; it is able to detect objects the size of a basketball at an altitude of ## kilometers (## miles), and smaller objects closer to Earth.

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2015 – European Commercial Space Surveillance – Snapshot

Collision avoidance is gaining the attention of commercial satellite operators as the Earth’s orbits continue to become more congested. A non-profit association of satellite operators from the Isle of Man, the Space Data Association, offers conjunction assessment services to its members. The automated space situational awareness system, operated under contract by AGI, came fully online in 2011 and is intended to aid space operators by alerting them about possible on-orbit collisions and radio frequency interference.

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2015 – France: SSA – Snapshot

SSA operations in France are shared by the French Air Force and the Centre National d’Études Spatiales (CNES). The missions for French SSA activities are similar to U.S. military efforts, attempting to catalog all low Earth orbiting objects for collision and launch avoidance. The French do use U.S. SSA-provided data, but they augment the data with data from their own systems.

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2015 – ESA: SSA – Snapshot

The European Space Agency is funding its own SSA program, mandated in 2008, launched in 2009, and funded through 2016. Europe’s increasing dependence on space-based services and infrastructure was a key factor in developing alternatives to non-European SSA sources. ESA’s SSA activities involve more than observing and tracking Earth orbiting objects.

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2015 – Russia: SSA – Snapshot

Russian SSA efforts are operated by the military, as is the case in the United States. Russia’s Space Control Center (TSKKP) falls within the Defense Ministry’s Main Space Intelligence Center. The focus of the TSKKP is to find, track, and identify objects orbiting the Earth. This allows the TSKKP to analyze the intent of satellites from foreign nations as well as determine whether objects in space pose an immediate threat to Russian space assets.

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2015 – U.S. Commercial Space Surveillance – Snapshot

U.S.-based companies like Analytical Graphics, Inc. (AGI) are developing their own SSA initiatives. Supplying services based more on the USSTRATCOM vision of SSA to space operators, commercial SSA services, processes and teams offer an alternative to JSpOC. Although the notifications from the JSpOC are helpful, they still require a capable orbital analyst to analyze the data contained within the messages and calculate whether a particular satellite needs to move to avoid a collision. Hiring a full-time orbital analyst to focus only on collision avoidance can be expensive for smaller satellite operators, such as Planet Labs.

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2015 – U.S. Space Surveillance Network – Snapshot

Since July 2010, the United States Strategic Command’s Joint Space Operations Center (JSpOC) has collected satellite orbit data and provided SSA to military, government, and commercial satellite operators through sending out predictions of close approaches for operational satellites. In October 2015, the U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) stated the intent to spend $6 billion on SSA activities and technology upgrades in the next five years.

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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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