Space Situational Awareness Satellites
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.
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.
The majority of known space-based SSA satellites are run by the U.S. Air Force’s 1st Space Operations Squadron (1 SOPS) from Schriever Air Force Base, Colorado.
In simplest terms, space situational awareness (SSA) is knowing what is happening, or possibly may happen, in the space around an object or point. For many organizations, such as the U.S. Strategic Command (USSTRATCOM), SSA is decidedly near-Earth focused, encompassing intelligence, surveillance, and…
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.
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.
As the space around Earth becomes increasingly crowded with satellites and debris, preventing further collisions is essential. Space Situational Awareness (SSA) systems are designed to locate and track objects in Earth’s orbit and predict potential collisions. Even very small objects moving at … Thank you for visiting The Space Report! The Authoritative Guide to Global…
Space situational awareness (SSA) is an important national security mission with strong dual-use applications. SSA systems are dedicated to tracking and characterizing every object in Earth’s orbit, making sure objects do not come close enough to each other to pose a risk of collision. They do this by scanning the sky with optical and radar-based sensors, tracking the positions and courses of orbital objects, and predicting their future positions. Most SSA information is collected from ground-based systems—there are only a few satellites that contribute data to this function.
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.
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.