On September 30, the Western Australian-based Space Surveillance Telescope—built in the United States—attained initial operational capability. (American Space Force).
In Washington According to Space Operations Command, a U.S.-made space monitoring telescope that was relocated from New Mexico to Western Australia is now fully operational.
The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology created the Space Surveillance Telescope to find and monitor debris in geosynchronous orbit, or about 22,000 miles above the surface of the Earth. In order to close a coverage gap, the US Department of Defense and Australia inked a contract in 2013 to move the telescope to the Southern Hemisphere.
SST was moved from the White Sands Missile Range in New Mexico in 2017 and its initial photos were taken in 2020. Since then, the system has through a rigorous testing process that has led to the initial operations milestone that was reached today. The telescope should be completely operational by next year, according to the Space Force.
The Space Surveillance Telescope will enable enhanced space domain awareness after testing is complete by offering ground-based, broad-area search, detection, and tracking of faint objects in deep space, according to a statement released on September 30 by Australia’s Department of Defence.
According to the 2013 agreement, SST will be operated jointly by the 21st Space Wing of the Space Force and the Royal Australian Air Force. The telescope is still owned by the United States, but Australia is in charge of its staff, infrastructure, and facilities.
SST is a component of the network of satellites, radars, and telescopes on the ground that the US Department of Defense calls the Space Surveillance Network. The SSN monitors thousands of objects, including satellites and debris.
The Space Force and U.S. Space Command give top attention to the domain awareness mission. The number of operational spacecraft on orbit is estimated to be around 5,500, up from about 1,400 in 2015, according to a research from the Union of Concerned Scientists published in April. Recent proposals made to the Federal Communications Commission suggest that number might increase by 58,000 satellites during the following ten years.
Despite the fact that these systems are delivering crucial services like better connection and communications, a research released on September 29 by the Government Accountability Office raises questions about the potential effects of big constellations on the space environment.
The GAO reports that the increased congestion makes space debris more likely to occur, produces emissions in the upper atmosphere, and hinders astronomical study by reflecting light and sending radio signals.
The consequences of several satellites operating in big constellations are greater or, in some situations, unknown, according to GAO, even though they may be minor for a single satellite.
Vice Chief of Space Operations Gen. David Thompson stated on September 28 at the virtual State of Defense conference that the “explosive” expansion in satellite traffic makes it more challenging to separate objects and prevent collisions. He pushed for the establishment of guidelines and requirements for the destruction of abandoned spacecraft, insisting that satellite owners “clean up after themselves.”
“I think we have to start by establishing those kinds of norms, standards, and regulations,” Thompson added. We should be able to control how the domain is used if we do that.
One of the four policy alternatives suggested in the agency’s report, the adoption of laws for the repositioning or disposal of ageing spacecraft and minimising debris, was likewise backed by the GAO research. Investing in specialised research into technology that could decrease the effects of powerful constellations, enhancing data exchange, and enhancing organisational and leadership structures are among the other ideas.
According to GAO, a policy framework made up of relevant choices could assist decision-makers and the space community in reducing the possible negative consequences of the expansion of big satellite constellations on the environment and other factors.