The US Air Force Research Lab Tests Space Situational Awareness
Air Force Testing Tech To Track Objects in Space
American Astronautical Society hosts a symposium on Space advancements. Image by Rachel Brooks.
The United States Air Force is advancing its research and capabilities in Space Situational Awareness,which is the technical name for the practice of tracking objects in Space and identifying them.
Dr. Jaime Stearns—Cislunar Lead, Air Force Research Laboratory, who spoke at the American Astronautical Society’s von Braun Space Symposium in Huntsville, Alabama on October 25, explained that, for human activity in Space to be sustainable, and international relationships to be enduring, situational awareness in Space must improve. This research is known as Space Situational Awareness or SSA.
Space Situational Awareness has become a strong focal point of the Air Force Research Lab’s contributions to the Space aspect of Air Force contributions to the Space geographic of global defense interests.
“AFRL operates two major telescope sites that are used to advance Space Situational Awareness (SSA) technologies. The Starfire Optical Range (SOR) is located on Kirtland Air Force Base, New Mexico, and the Air Force Maui Optical and Super Computing (AMOS) site is located in Maui, Hawaii,” the Air Force Research Lab writes on its landing page.
Dr. Stearns noted that the current observation capabilities are lacking. This is in part because this is a region of space that cannot be observed at certain times of the day due to orbital patterns of the Sun blocking the view, in a situational blindness that the AFRL refers to as "the cone of shame" due to current tech's incapacity to see in those fields.
Competitive advantages in Space capabilities drive the need for increased situational awareness in Space, as international players contend to get ahead in Space, both in terms of commercial competition and in national security. Space and the awareness of astrodynamics, which is the study of movement and the influence of “artificial” bodies” versus natural bodies, is becoming a stronger agenda point for world leaders.