The U.S. Air Force is shutting down a key part of its network for tracking satellites and orbital debris, possibly as soon as Oct. 1, according to an Aug. 1 memo obtained by SpaceNews.Gen. William Shelton, commander of Air Force Space Command, “has directed that the Air Force Space Surveillance System be closed and all sites vacated” effective Oct. 1, the memo said.
A couple days old; do we have a thread on this anywhere else?http://www.spacenews.com/article/military-space/36655shelton-orders-shutdown-of-space-fenceQuoteThe U.S. Air Force is shutting down a key part of its network for tracking satellites and orbital debris, possibly as soon as Oct. 1, according to an Aug. 1 memo obtained by SpaceNews.Gen. William Shelton, commander of Air Force Space Command, “has directed that the Air Force Space Surveillance System be closed and all sites vacated” effective Oct. 1, the memo said.It's not the entire tracking network, but it is one of primary tracking assets. Replacement is also on hold at this time.
This must be part of the plan to make sequestration as painful as possible.I can't think of any other reason to shut this down while still reviewing the more expensive replacement options.
I'm working on an in-depth analysis of this decision. It is troubling, but given the budget constraints and the options available it was probably the "least worst" choice. There will be some impact to SSA but not what we thought it might be, and the actual impact is difficult to quantify.Hope to have the article out early next week.
Here's the article I posted a couple days ago with an in-depth analysis of this decision:http://www.thespacereview.com/article/2357/1
From Brian's article:On August 6, 2013, news broke that the commander of Air Force Space Command (AFSPC), General William Shelton, had ordered the shutdown of the Air Force Space Surveillance System (AFSSS) by the beginning of the new fiscal year on October 1. This article aims to shed some light on the technical, budgetary, and political considerations behind the decision to shut down the AFSSS. The loss of the AFSSS is not likely to have a significant impact on the accuracy of objects in the existing satellite catalog or the ability of the US military to track medium to large size objects in orbit. The real impact will be the loss of the AFSSS’s ability to do uncued detection of breakups and maneuvers across a huge area of Earth orbit and act as a “trip wire” to warn about events in space. Thus, the shutdown of the AFSSS is more likely to negatively impact broad area surveillance aspect of space situational awareness (SSA) than the tracking accuracy aspect of space surveillance.
SST has already been up and running in New Mexico for some time, and yes they are looking to put one in Australia. But this is not a replacement for the Space Fence. Radar and optical are complementary technologies that each have different advantages and disadvantages. They are not substitutes for each other.
The radar is an older C-band dish-type from Antigua that was once part of the SSN but stopped being used for space surveillance years ago:http://www.antiguaobserver.com/us-air-station-to-begin-dismantling-radar-next-year/It's not any way an "operational set". Both are going to be part of the SSN. SST is pretty sweet but the C-band dish is vastly inferior to any of the phased arrays or even the old Space Fence.
Yep, that's definitely some serious hardware
This paper talks a bit about how and why SST is so awesome, and also what some of the other options are for optical telescopes:http://www.amostech.com/TechnicalPapers/2013/Optical_Systems/ACKERMANN.pdf
The conclusion of the study was that the AF could buy a new telescope to put in Australia with much of the performance of the SST for the same cost it would take to move the SST from New Mexico to Australia. The end result would cost the same but you'd have two systems instead of one.
This is a radar I'd never heard of performing the satellite tracking mission