The Australian Department of Defence (DoD) and the US Space Force (USSF) have declared initial operational capability (IOC) for the Space Surveillance Telescope (SST).

The latest milestone comes after the SST underwent a series of extensive tests and evaluation programmes since 2020.

It was conducted to validate the readiness of the telescope to undertake ongoing operations.

Following the completion of tests, the SST is now capable of providing improved space domain awareness capability by delivering ground-based, broad-area search, detection and tracking of faint objects, deep in space.

According to Australian Defence Space Command commander air-vice marshal Cath Roberts, the IOC marks a significant step in establishing the alliance’s and Australia’s future space capabilities.

Roberts said: “In an increasingly contested and congested space environment, SST will provide enhanced awareness of the space domain and contribute to greater Alliance cooperation.

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“The bespoke facilities and supporting infrastructure are as much of a milestone as the telescope itself and represent a significant achievement by Defence and Australian industry.” 

In 2012, the US and Australia signed a space situational awareness partnership agreement at the Australia-US Ministerial Consultations.

Under this agreement, the SST was moved from the US to Australia to bolster ability of the US Space Surveillance Network to track space objects and debris.

The detection of space assets provided necessary alerts and warnings to prevent potential collisions of the space objects, such as debris and inactive satellites.

This will increase the survivability of objects in space.

Operated by the Royal Australian Air Force, the SST is located at the Harold E Holt Communication Station in Exmouth, Western Australia.

The telescope captured its first set of images of the space objects from Australia in March 2020.