GROUND-BASED ELECTRO-OPTICAL DEEP SPACE SURVEILLANCE
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
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
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,
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
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.
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