Space Surveillance – The Vital Component For Sustaining Space Assets

One of the main risks to satellites nowadays is space debris. We all rely on a wide range of services provided by our satellite-based infrastructure in our daily lives, from meteorology and communications to international freight and passenger shipping. More than 750 000 trash particles larger than 1 cm are thought to be in Earth orbit; any one of these objects has the potential to harm functional satellites. After the dangers connected with launch and deployment into orbit, the risk of losing a spacecraft through impact with space junk is the third highest for many missions. The orbits of space objects must be understood in order to prevent collisions with trash in space. This calls for a sensor network that typically consists of telescopes, radars, and laser ranging stations. The task of the space surveillance network includes finding new extraterrestrial artificial objects. Creates a live inventory of spacecraft that were built by humans. Identifies the nation in charge of a space object that is circling or reentering the atmosphere. Charts space objects’ current positions and predicts their future trajectories. Determines the time and location of a space object’s re-entry into Earth’s atmosphere.


Phased-array radars (PAR) can scan a wide portion of space in a split second and can keep track of numerous satellites at once. These radars use electronic steering of the radar energy rather than any mechanical moving elements to control the pace of the radar scan. Thousands of thousands of tiny transmit/receive antennas are positioned on the face or side of a huge wedge-shaped structure in a PAR.

Traditional radars employ either fixed detection or tracking antennas or movable tracking antennas. Radar energy is sent into space by a detecting antenna in the form of a large fan. Energy is reflected back to the detecting antenna when a satellite crosses the fan, where it is calculated where the satellite is. A tracking antenna directs a focused beam of energy toward a satellite, then analyses the energy it receives back to determine the satellite’s position and track its motion to gather more data.

Telescopes that are connected to cameras and computers make up electro-optical sensors. The space images captured by the video cameras are sent to a nearby computer, which powers a display scope. Magnetic storage media is used to convert and store the image as electrical impulses. As a result, the image can be captured and examined immediately or later. Tracking objects in deep space requires the Ground-Based Electro-Optical Deep Space Surveillance System, or GEODSS. In orbits in deep space, between 10,000 and 45,000 kilometers from Earth, are more than 2,500 objects, including geostationary communication satellites. All orbiting artificial objects are monitored by the Joint Space Operations Center Space Situational Awareness Operations Cell of the U.S. Strategic Command, which is based at Vandenberg Air Force Base in California. The centre collects element sets of on-orbit positional data from the Space Surveillance Network, a global network of optical and radar sensors. This enables the center to keep up-to-date records on every artificial object that is currently in orbit. There are three operating GEODSS facilities that directly answer to the 21st Operations Group, 21st Space Wing of Air Force Space Command at Peterson AFB, Colorado. Detachments 1, 2, and 3 are located in Socorro, New Mexico, Diego Garcia, British Indian Ocean Territory, and Maui, Hawaii, respectively. A one-meter telescope outfitted with the Deep STARE very sensitive digital camera technology is used by GEODSS to carry out its task. Three telescopes are present at the operating GEODSS sites, and they can be used individually or in combination. These telescopes can “see” things that are 10,000 times fainter than what the human eye can distinguish. Like any optical system, its performance is strongly influenced by local weather and cloud cover, thus it can only be used at night. Multiple satellites can be tracked using the Deep STARE system at once. Rapid electronic snapshots are taken by the telescopes when the satellites pass the sky, and these images appear as brief streaks on the operator’s console.

The European Union established the Space Surveillance and Tracking (SST) Support Framework in 2014 with Decision 541/2014/EU of the European Parliament and the Council (SST Decision). In accordance with this Decision, an SST Consortium would be established, which is now made up of seven EU Member States: France, Germany, Italy, Poland, Portugal, Romania, and Spain. In order to offer data, information, and services about space objects that orbit the Earth, an SST system is a network of ground- and space-based sensors capable of surveying and tracking space objects. The SST Cooperation was established in 2016 as a result of collaboration between the SST Consortium and the European Union Satellite Centre (SatCen) to create a European SST capacity.

Space Surveillance is an integral part of Space Situational Awareness (SSA), SSA is critical to ensuring that space activities are carried out safely and in conformity with national and international laws, rules, and other guidelines. It entails being aware of potential hazards to space activities as well as knowing the space environment. Issues such as orbital collisions between space objects and space debris can be avoided with SSA. Operators must be aware of their legal responsibilities, which include liability, ownership, and control over space objects. Operators can carry out missions securely, decrease the chance of collisions, and prevent interfering with the space activities of other entities or nations by knowing where space objects are positioned in orbit, their orbital trajectories, and their status. SSA also entails spotting potentially damaging natural phenomena in space, such as electro-magnetic interference and asteroids posing a threat to spacecraft.

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