L3Harris Technologies has been awarded a $17.7m contract modification by the US Department of Defense (DoD) to previously awarded contract to provide support for the Ground-Based Electro-Optical Deep Space Surveillance (GEODSS) network.

According to a 22 January 2024, contract notice posted by the DoD, the modification brings the cumulative face value of the contract to $818.6m, with work to be performed at the White Sands Missile Range, New Mexico; Diego Garcia, British Indian Ocean Territories; and Maui, Hawaii; and is expected to be completed by 31 January 2025.

The US Space Systems Center Directorate of Contracting, located at Peterson Space Force Base, was the designated contracting activity.

What is the GEODSS?

As detailed by the US Space Force, the GEODSS system performs a key role in the US ability to track deep space objects. More than 2,500 such objects, including geostationary communication satellites, are in deep space orbits varying in altitude from 10,000 to 45,000km from Earth.

In addition, approximately 25,000 known man-made objects orbit the Earth, including active payloads such as weather monitoring or GPS satellites, so-called ‘space junk’ left over from previous satellite launches, or debris from accidental or deliberate destruction of satellites.

The US Space Force’s Space Delta 2 (DEL 2) is responsible for tracking all man-made objects in orbit, receiving positional tracking data from the US Space Surveillance Network (SSN), which is comprised of optical and radar sensors strategically located around the world.

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There are three DEL 2 operational GEODSS sites in the SSN located in the US and US Indo-Pacific commands.

Notable in the L3Harris award for GEODSS is the location of one such sensor node, sited at the joint UK-US intelligence base at Diego Garcia, part of the archipelagic British Indian Ocean Territory (BIOT).

Controversy has returned to the UK-US base at Diego Garcia in recent years, with the UK considering petitions to return to the Chagos indigenous people that were displaced from Diego Garcia when the UK-US military base was established in 1973. Mauritius maintains a claim to the BIOT.

However, the UK Government maintains that any return of BIOT islands to the Chagos people and Mauritius would not include that of Diego Garcia, which is one of the most classified signals and space intelligence gathering sites active in the US surveillance network.