The US Air Force Space Command (AFSPC ) commander general William Shelton has provided details about the new geosynchronous space situational awareness program (GSSAP) at the Air Force Association Air Warfare Symposium and Technology exposition in Florida, US.
Shelton said the GSSAP will present a significant enhancement in space object surveillance for both better collision avoidance, and for threats detection.
"GSSAP will bolster our ability to discern when adversaries attempt to avoid detection and to discover capabilities they may have, which might be harmful to our critical assets at these higher altitudes," Shelton said.
The GSSAP will be a space-based capability operating in near-geosynchronous orbit, supporting US Strategic Command's space surveillance operations as a dedicated space surveillance network (SSN) sensor, according to a fact sheet posted on the AFSPC website.
Manufactured by Orbital Sciences, the GSSAP satellites are expected to support Joint Functional Component Command for Space (JFCC SPACE) tasking to collect space situational awareness data, allowing for more accurate tracking and characterisation of man-made orbiting objects.
The data collected by the satellites will contribute to timely and accurate orbital predictions, enhancing the command's knowledge of the geosynchronous orbit environment, and further enabling space flight safety to include satellite collision avoidance.
The GSSAP satellites will communicate information through the world-wide air force satellite control network (AFSCN) ground stations, then to Schriever Air Force Base in Colorado, US.
Two GSSAP satellites are expected to launch aboard a United Launch Alliance (ULA) Delta IV M+ (4,2) booster configuration vehicle from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Florida, US, in 2014.
Image: US Air Force Space Command commander General William Shelton announces the new GSSAP programme. Photo: courtesy of Scott M. Ash.