USAF.com Ground-Based Electro-Optical Deep Space Surveillance

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GROUND-BASED ELECTRO-OPTICAL DEEP SPACE SURVEILLANCE

Mission

There are approximately 10,000 known man-made objects in orbit around the Earth. These objects range from active payloads, such as weather satellites or GPS to "space junk" such as rocket bodies or debris from past satellite breakups.

 

Air Force Space Command's Joint Space Operations Center Mountain, located within Cheyenne Mountain Air Force Station in Colorado Springs, Colo., is responsible for tracking all man-made objects in orbit. The center receives on-orbit positional data, known as element sets, from the Space Surveillance Network which is comprised of both optical and radar sensors throughout the world. This enables the JSpOC-Mtn to maintain accurate data on every man-made object currently in orbit.

GEODSS plays a vital role in tracking deep space objects. Over 2,500 objects, including geostationary communication satellites, are in deep space orbits any where from 10,000 to 45,000 kilometers from earth.

Currently, there are three operational GEODSS sites that report directly to the 21st Operations Group, 21st Space Wing, Peterson Air Force Base, Colo. They are: Detachment 1, Socorro, N.M.; Detachment 2, Diego Garcia, British Indian Ocean Territory; and Detachment 3, Maui, Hawaii.

Features

GEODSS performs its mission using a one-meter telescope that is equipped with a highly sensitive digital camera technology, known as Deep STARE. Each detachment has three of these telescopes that can be used in conjunction with each other or separately. These telescopes are able to "see" objects 10,000 times dimmer than the human eye can detect. As with any optical system, cloud cover and local weather conditions directly influence its effectiveness and can only operate at night.

The Deep STARE system is able to track multiple satellites in the field of view. As the satellites cross the sky, the telescopes take rapid electronic snapshots, showing up on the operator's console as tiny streaks. Computers then measure these streaks and use the data to figure the current position of a satellite in its orbit. Star images, which remain fixed, are used as a reference or calibration points for each of the three telescopes. This data, known as observations, is then sent instantaneously to the JSpOC-Mtn.

Background

The GEODSS system has been an important piece of U.S. Strategic Command's space situational awareness mission since the early 1980s. In 2004, each site began the Deep STARE upgrade giving us the most accurate and sensitive optical telescopes in the world. The GEODSS system can track objects as small as a basketball more than 20,000 miles away and is a vital part of the AFSPC's space surveillance network.

Point of Contact

Air Force Space Command - Public Affairs Office
150 Vandenberg Street, Suite 1105
Peterson AFB, CO 80914.
DSN 692-3731 or (719) 554-3731

November 2006

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