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News > AFSPC explores Allen Telescope Array for Space Surveillance
Media Advisory: AFSPC explores Allen Telescope Array for Space Surveillance

Posted 5/19/2009   Updated 5/19/2009 Email story   Print story

    


Release Number: 090502

5/19/2009 - PETERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Colo.  -- An important and high visibility mission of the United States Air Force Space Command (AFSPC) is Space Situational Awareness (SSA). Space Surveillance, a key component of SSA, involves using the Space Surveillance Network (SSN) of telescopes and radars to detect, track, identify and catalog all man-made objects orbiting the earth. Knowing where orbiting objects are located in space is key to ensuring safe space operations. The significance of the SSA mission has become even more acute with the recent collision of an Iridium Satellite and an inoperable Russian Cosmos Satellite, which destroyed both satellites and created two large fields of space debris. This debris will be a risk to other satellites for years to come as the debris fields expand and their orbits degrade toward Earth. 

AFSPC is exploring opportunities in academia and the commercial sector that could provide suitable cost-effective means for augmenting Space Command's Space Surveillance mission. The Allen Telescope Array (ATA), located in Northern California is one such opportunity. The ATA which is operated by the SETI Institute and its partner, the Radio Astronomy Laboratory at the University of California, Berkeley is a radio interferometer 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 observe many areas of the sky at once. 

AFSPC, through the Space Innovation and Development Center (SIDC), is evaluating the possible use of the ATA to augment the SSN, potentially leveraging the array to help increase space situational awareness. Initial demonstrations show promise for the ATA to track transmitting communication 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. If demonstrations are successful, the ATA may prove to be a viable all-weather, day and night contributor to the SSA mission. 

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