U.S. Space Situational Awareness Activities
The U.S. Air Force (USAF) continued adding space situational awareness (SSA) satellites to the nation’s operational military SSA satellite inventory during 2016. By the end of the year, seven satellites made up the nation’s unclassified SSA fleet. These were the Automated Navigation and Guidance Experiment for Local Space (ANGELS), Advanced Technology…
The U.S. Space Based Surveillance System (SBSS) satellite, launched in 2010, uses an optical sensor to detect objects in space as it orbits around Earth. It has an expected lifespan of 5.5 years and was designed as a pathfinder for a proposed series of similar satellites.
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In February 2014, the USAF took the unusual step of publicly announcing the existence of classified space situational awareness satellites. In the initial announcement, General William Shelton stated that the Geosynchronous Space Situational Awareness Program (GSSAP) satellites will provide more accurate locations and data about satellites and perhaps debris orbiting the Earth. The first ## of ## GSSAP satellites were launched to GEO in July 2014, and the USAF intends to launch ## more satellites in 2016.
The majority of known space-based SSA satellites are run by the U.S. Air Force’s 1st Space Operations Squadron (1 SOPS) from Schriever Air Force Base, Colorado. Operations were conducted by 1 SOPS for ## SSA satellites during 2015: Advanced Technology Risk Reduction (ATRR); Space Based Surveillance System (SBSS); and ## Geosynchronous Space Situational Awareness Program (GSSAP) satellites.
In 2010, the United States launched the first Space Based Space Surveillance satellite (SBSS-1) for its Space Surveillance Network. From its LEO orbit, SBSS-1 supplements ground-based equipment that tracks more than ## objects ## centimeters (## inches) or larger orbiting Earth. Its vantage point in space means that its observations of other objects in space are not affected by weather, lighting, or distortion that can be caused by the Earth’s atmosphere. This enables more accurate and timely information regarding objects’ orbital paths, thus allowing for earlier warnings of potential spacecraft collisions.
Another notable launch in 2010 was the first Space Based Space Surveillance satellite (SBSS-1) for the U.S. Space Surveillance Network. This branch of U.S. Strategic Command is tasked with detecting, identifying, and tracking space objects in order to provide true situational awareness in space. From its LEO orbit, SBSS-1 will supplement ground-based equipment that tracks more than ## objects orbiting Earth. Its vantage point from space means that its measurements are not subject to weather, lighting, or distortion that can be caused by the Earth’s atmosphere.