Orbital satellite tracks

At the Arizona Science and Astronomy Expo in Tucson, DARPA unveiled a new program to engage amateur astronomers in helping to protect satellites.

The goal of the program, called SpaceView, is to provide more diverse data to the Space Surveillance Network, a worldwide network of 29 radar and optical telescopes which observes and catalogues space objects to spot potential collisions. SpaceView plans to engage amateur astronomers by purchasing remote access existing amateur telescopes or providing telescopes to selected astronomers. The telescopes would still be available for amateur astronomy when not in use by the SpaceView program.

NASA estimates more than 500,000 pieces of hazardous space debris orbit the earth, threatening satellites that support peacekeeping and combat missions. These objects include spent rocket stages, defunct satellites and fragments from other spacecraft that are the result of erosion, explosion and collision. A collision between one of these small pieces of debris and a satellite could release more than 20,000 times the energy of a head-on automobile collision.

DARPA program manager Lt. Col. Travis Blake (USAF) said, “There is an untold amount of potential in the amateur astronomy community that we hope to use to broaden our situational awareness in space. SpaceView should provide more diverse data from different geographic locations to ensure we have a robust understanding of the current and future state of our space assets.”

Amateur astronomers can learn more about the program and sign up at www.spaceviewnetwork.com. Participants will be selected based on geographic location and access to a permanent site for a telescope, among other criteria. In the first phase of the program, the program team will evaluate options for commercial off-the-shelf telescopes to determine which capabilities are best suited to the task.

A parallel effort called StellarView will focus on the academic community. StellarView is scheduled to kick-off in 2013. SpaceView and StellarView are part of a larger DARPA program, OrbitOutlook, that seeks to improve the accuracy and timeliness of the Space Surveillance Network.

Written by Astro1 on November 13th, 2012 , Astronomy, Planetary Defense

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