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Space Debris Extensions – ATA Helps Tracking



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Space Debris Extensions – ATA Helps Tracking



[____]

[____] The ATA can track debris in daylight, something that current technology cannot.
THE SETI Institute, 5/19/2009 “AFSPC explores Allen Telescope Array for Space Surveillance,” http://www.seti.org/afspc
Future tasks for the ATA will include demonstrating the capability to track objects besides GPS. Additionally, tasks such as tracking objects during the daylight hours, or with the sun or moon in field of view, will further demonstrate the capabilities of the ATA as a sensor for the SSN. These demonstrations are important because many of the current sensors have difficulty with light-pollution, which hampers observations. If the ATA can demonstrate its capability to precisely locate satellites in all orbits, during day or night, it increases it significance as a SSN sensor, and increases the overall safety of space.


[____] The ATA could be used by the Air Force Space Command to improve space safety.
THE SETI Institute, 5/19/2009 “AFSPC explores Allen Telescope Array for Space Surveillance,” http://www.seti.org/afspc
AFSPC is one of a few organizations responsible for obtaining and maintaining the awareness needed for successful and safe space operations. The command develops, maintains and shares a comprehensive and accurate catalog of orbiting space objects, while constantly seeking methods to improve their Space Surveillance Network (SSN), a global network of radar and optical sensors that detect and track orbiting space objects. AF Space Command is exploring opportunities in academia and the commercial sector that could provide suitable cost-effective means for augmenting the Space Command's Space Surveillance mission. The Allen Telescope Array (ATA), located at the Hat Creek Radio Observatory, 290 miles northeast of San Francisco, California is a tool with strong potential for use by AFSPC in support of the Department of Defense’s Space Surveillance mission. The ATA is a radio interferometer that is dedicated to cutting-edge astronomical research. This array of antennas is optimized to receive and process a very wide portion of the radio spectrum and can stare at many areas of the sky at once. AFSPC, through the Space Innovation and Development Center (SIDC), is currently researching the possible use of the ATA to augment the already extensive sensors of the Space Surveillance Network, potentially leveraging the array to help increase space situational awareness. Initial demonstrations show promise for the ATA to track transmitting satellites in Low Earth Orbit, Medium Earth Orbit and, most promising, in Geosynchronous Orbit (GEO), which is home to the most costly, highly-utilized, and vital satellites that orbit the earth. A collision and subsequent debris field in GEO could permanently remove the GEO belt from worldwide use. AFSPC is working with the SETI Institute, and its partner, the Radio Astronomy Laboratory at the University of California, Berkeley. These partners currently operate the ATA. The effort is to demonstrate the array’s capability of accurately surveying the GEO belt by demonstrating the array’s capability of precisely locating objects in that area, in an effort to avoid a devastating collision in GEO. The ATA may prove to be a viable and sensitive SSN sensor, capable of all-weather, day and night operations, and will hopefully lead to improved space safety.

Space Debris Extensions – Plan Mitigates Debris



[____]

[____] A tracking system is key to alleviate space debris.
Sarah D. Dahl, Major, United States Air Force, 04/2009, “ Is it time for space debris removal?”

With all the increased activities in space, it has become critical that debris is detected and tracked to protect the spacecraft. Depending on the altitude and radar cross-section of the debris, our detection and tracking capabilities are limited to the LEO and GEO orbits (with GEO being the most challenging due to the altitude), which isn’t necessarily bad given that these are the most congested orbits. Debris is tracked using a combination of optical telescopes (most effective for objects in GEO) and radar (most effective for objects in LEO). Currently, an international space surveillance system does not exist. However, several countries have established their own systems to track objects, and in some cases have been willing to share the data. The countries most involved with tracking are the United States, United Kingdom, Germany, and France. The U.S. Space Surveillance Network (SSN) is the leading mechanism 8 for tracking debris and maintaining a catalogue of its location (which is critical information to satellite operators to provide early warning to conduct collision avoidance maneuvers or launch notifications). This system consists of around 30 radar and optical sensors, located at 16 sites around the world. 30 It is capable of reliably tracking objects that are ten centimeters or larger (currently tracking over 17,300 objects of this size). 31 “About seven percent are operational satellites, 15 percent are rocket bodies, and about 78 percent are fragmentation and inactive satellites.” 32 However, there are over 300,000 objects between one and 10 cm in size, and billions more even smaller (especially in LEO). 33 Debris this small can only be observed using such systems as the Haystack Radar, which is a 37-meter telescope that can detect objects in LEO down to 5-mm in size if in the radar’s line of sight. 34 To put all this into perspective, we currently track about 17,300 objects the size of a grapefruit or larger (10-cm), but can only observe anything smaller at a specific place and time at best. To complicate matters, the reliability of these systems is dependent on the space environment. Solar flares can cause these systems to lose objects for days. This can be concerning when planning launches and forecasting where the debris will be with respect to the launch trajectory. Given the increasing amount of debris (and debris creating activities such as ASAT tests), it is even more critical that our detection and tracking capabilities become more accurate, reliable and able to track debris less than 10 cm. Additionally, an international tracking system should be established and funded among all space-faring nations to share the burden of developing this capability.




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