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Commercial Space Catalog

Description:

DIRECT TO PHASE II

TECHNOLOGY AREA(S): Battlespace

OBJECTIVE: Develop and demonstrate the ability of a global network of commercial and/or university telescopes to collect satellite tracking data to build and maintain, at a minimum, a near-GEO (geo-synchronous orbit) catalog, with the goal of a deep-space catalog, either of which would have a similar or better accuracy as the US Space Surveillance Network (SSN). The project shall serve as a path finder in assessing the feasibility and affordability of developing and maintaining a commercially developed catalog as a commodity.

DESCRIPTION: The modern axiom “Space is becoming more congested and contested” becomes more relevant as the world continues to place more satellites in orbit, becoming increasingly reliant on the services they provide. The Air Force Space Surveillance Network currently maintains a catalog of over 4200 objects in deep-space and over 1500 objects in near-GEO, and it is known that there are many smaller objects that are difficult to detect or cannot be tracked with current systems. For the purposes of this solicitation, deep-space is defined as orbits having a mean period of 225 minutes or greater and near-GEO is defined to include orbits having a mean period of approximately 24hours, or an apogee near 35,768km, and having any values of inclination angle and orbital eccentricity. The inherent responsibilities of Space Situational Awareness are vast and becoming more demanding of the Joint Functional Component Command for Space (JFCC Space) mission. JFCC Space, through its Joint Space Operations Center (JSpOC), provides surveillance of all space objects and activities, maintains detailed reconnaissance of space assets, fuses space data, maintains awareness of cooperative space assets, and allows JFCC-Space to conduct integrated C2 of space forces. Our current space surveillance operations are challenged to keep up with the growing number of space objects indefinitely.

Routine catalog maintenance places a large burden on space surveillance operations and is impacting the ability of orbital analysts to effectively perform the space protection mission. The Air Force Space Commander has called for alternative approaches to execute the function of “Space Traffic Cop” in order to free up JSpOC resources. Many companies are collecting observations (both metric and light curve data) on space objects every day, amateur astronomers are consistently tracking and reporting on satellite positions, and networks of university astronomical research telescopes can be time shared and/or used collaboratively to detect and report on satellite positions. Leveraging the commercial industry, academia and other government agencies has proven to be an invaluable asset for our military in the past, and is expected to provide similar benefits in this area of space catalog maintenance.

PHASE I: Proposal must show

A) Demonstrated understanding of space surveillance technology and data products including calibration.
B) Demonstrated expertise and capability in processing and fusing satellite tracking data for catalog generation and maintenance.
C) Demonstrated feasibility of automated processing of a large volume of tracking data in an ongoing and timely manner.
D) Relevant experience demonstrating successful data ingest and processing using observations from non-government telescope network(s) for space object tracking.

FEASIBILITY DOCUMENTATION: Offerors interested in submitting a Direct to Phase II proposal in response to this topic must provide documentation to substantiate that the scientific and technical merit and feasibility described above has been met and to identify the potential commercial applications. The documentation provided must substantiate that the proposer has developed a preliminary understanding of the technology to be applied in their Phase II proposal to meet the objectives of this topic. Documentation should include all relevant information including, but not limited to: technical reports, test data, prototype designs/models, and performance goals/results. Read and follow all of the feasibility documentation portions of the Air Force 16.2 Instructions. The Air Force will not evaluate the offeror’s related DP2 proposal where it determines that the offeror has failed to demonstrate the scientific and technical merit and feasibility of the Phase I project.

PHASE II: The contractor shall perform the following tasks:

1. Determine the available (commercial, university, etc.) tracking sources to be employed in the feasibility demonstration and secure cooperation agreements with them.
2. Obtain sample tracking data of representative types and demonstrate planned techniques for data calibration and usage.
3. Using simulated or real data, demonstrate large scale tracking data processing and catalog maintenance in an ongoing and timely fashion.
4. Using real commercial and/or university tracking data, demonstrate catalog generation and maintenance of the public near-GEO (minimum)/deep-space (goal) catalog for a minimum period of 1 month at the end of the contract period of performance.
5. Provide cost estimates for employing the demonstrated concept for operational support to the US Government. Estimates shall include cost for data acquisition, catalog maintenance center operations, and data archiving and distribution.

• All work should be accomplished in a contractor and/or university facility.
• Government tracking data will not be provided and should not be used or mixed with the commercial and university tracking data.
• The results of the 1 month test will be compared to the corresponding month of performance of the US Space

Surveillance Network to determine achievement of similar or better accuracy. Additionally, catalog completeness will also be an important metric. This evaluation will be performed by the Government with the help of the contractor team.

PHASE III DUAL USE APPLICATIONS: DUAL USE APPLICATIONS: The Government has an interest in transition of the demonstrated concept to an operational capability in support of routine space situational awareness operations. Additionally, applications of the technology to support commercial satellite operators are envisioned for collision avoidance and anomaly resolution.

REFERENCES:

  • N. R. Council, Continuing Kepler’s Quest: Assessing Air Force Space Command's Astrodynamic Standards, Washington DC: The National Academies Press, 2012.
  • B. Weeden, "The Numbers game," The Space Review, pp. 1-2, 13 July 2009.
  • USSTRATCOM Space Control and Space Surveillance.

KEYWORDS: space situational awareness, space object identification, space control, space surveillance, space catalog, orbit tracking, deep-space, geo-synchronous orbit, data fusion, data processing, data acquisition, space catalog maintenance, data archiving

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