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Prototype for Rapid Reconstitution for Ground-based Space Situational Awareness Capability for Near-geosynchronous Objects



OBJECTIVE: Design/demonstrate a ground-based electro-optic sensor for space situational awareness that performs much like a Space Surveillance Network sensor and is rapidly-constructed at low-cost. Application includes rapid reconstruction of an SSN sensor.

DESCRIPTION: The Air Force operates a network of custom-built electro-optic (EO) sensors distributed about the globe for maintaining space situational awareness (SSA, which includes missions such as catalog maintenance, wide-area search, space-object custody) objects in near-geosynchronous orbits (GEOs). These EO sensors are subject to outages due to maintenance or due to damage caused by natural disaster, which might render them non-operational for long periods (multiple months). Meanwhile, commercial-off-the-shelf (COTS) components exist that mimic some properties of the Air Force sensors, such as 1-meter telescopes on accurately-pointing computer-controlled mounts, and in case of outage these COTS components could be integrated and put in the field rapidly (within weeks). Likely, these substitute sensors would fall short of the performance delivered by the custom-built sensors since they are not optimized for the SSA mission parameters. With proper planning, however, EO sensor "packages" could be optimized so that COTS components could be acquired, undergo tailored modifications, and be rapidly-integrated-tested-fielded such that they could supply a militarily-useful fraction of the capability lost during down-time for the custom-built sensors. Such packages could be called "commercially derived," i.e., using COTS components to the greatest extent possible but allowing for a small number of modifications. The goal of this project is to design and demonstrate a ground-based EO sensor which is tailored to accomplish one or more SSA missions, and which consists as much as possible of commercially-derived components. In addition, a plan must be developed to task the sensor and to deliver its data products back to the requestor in a timely fashion. Developing a plan for this tasking-processing-exploitation-dissemination (TPED) procedure is an equally important goal, since the sensor will be acting in place of an SSA sensor already in or planned for the space surveillance architecture which accomplishes TPED. Successful proposers will to the greatest extent possible show:

  • Ability to design a commercially-derived EO sensor and accompanying facility that replicates the performance of a current or planned EO space-surveillance sensor to the greatest extent possible. Performance of a Ground-based Electro-Optical Deep Space Surveillance System sensor and the Space Surveillance Telescope is highly desirable, and performance metrics to replicate include, but are not limited to, metric-track accuracy, sensitivity, number of objects observed, number of tracklets collected, and low photometric uncertainty. Proposer may assume that the objective site has electricity and Internet.
  • Ability to rapidly put into the field a sensor; this includes acquiring-modifying-integrating the parts, and then testing the integrated system and setting up in the field (target <5 weeks).
  • Ability to produce a sensor with necessary facility and software with low-cost (target <$1M)
  • Ability to design and implement a tasking-processing-exploitation-dissemination (TPED) procedure for the sensor that is usable by the customer.
  • Ability to accurately predict and model telescope hardware performance as well as photometric performance. Also, be able to show traceability of requirements from a prototype sensor to an objective sensor that the Air Force would put into the field.
  • Understanding of the cost of software. Also, show understanding for the man-hours and time required for integrating COTS software and conducting verification and validation of the computer and integrated software subsystems.
  • Access to a dark-site for performance testing against a list of GEOs.
  • Ability to provide follow-on use by the Air Force under a cooperative agreement to be arranged in the future.

PHASE I: Produce commercially-derived design(s) for a ground-based optical sensor(s) tailored to accomplish an SSA mission. Confine the band-pass between near-UV and near-IR. Document the COTS and custom software. Analyze the performance compared to a sensor used now or planned for space surveillance. Develop a TPED plan using these sensors. Assess expected cost and work-time from purchase to setup.

PHASE II: Select a design for a prototype sensor with customer input. Refine design, and construct and demonstrate the prototype. Collect SSA data using the prototype, compare to theoretical performance, and update the performance model. Demonstrate a version of the TPED plan using the customer as a surrogate space operator. Describe potential future improvements and estimate the cost of these improvements. At effort close, propose cooperative agreement to make sensor available to Air Force for research.

PHASE III DUAL USE APPLICATIONS: Demonstrate rapid assembly of one or more prototypes; then deploy and operate the prototypes to conduct an SSA mission for no less than one month using the related TPED procedure. Analyze the performance of the sensors using metrics in Description. Prepare DT&E report on the prototype for Air Force.


    • Faccenda, W.J. et al., 2003, "Deep Stare Technical Advancements and Status," Mitre Corporation.


    • AFSPC/A3C, 2013, “Ground-based Electro-Optical Deep Space Surveillance (GEODSS) System Operating Concept,” Air Force Space Command


  • AFSPC/A3C, 2010, “Operating Concept for Space Surveillance Telescope (SST)”, Air Force Space Command.

KEYWORDS: SSA, space surveillance, sensor, GEO, RSO, custody, low-cost, rapid, electro-optic, GEODSS, SST, TPED

  • TPOC-1: Richard Rast
  • Phone: 505-846-5682
  • Email:
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