Orbital Debris Monitored By GEODSS
Roughly 15,000 miles
above the Earth's surface, a communications satellite provides
vital information to all branches of the US military. It is one of
more than 9,000 items in space that are tracked by the Ground-Based
Electro-Optical Deep Space Surveillance System, known as
There are three operational GEODSS sites that report to the 21st
Space Wing at Peterson Air Force Base in Colorado. They are
Detachment 1 in Socorro, NM; Detachment 2 in Southwest Asia; and
Detachment 3 in Maui, Hawaii.
Each site is responsible for tracking thousands of known
man-made deep-space objects in orbit around the Earth at an
altitude of 10,000 to 45,000 kilometers. These objects range from
active payloads such as satellites to “space junk” such
as debris from launch vehicles and satellite breakups.
"As various on-orbit satellites perform their military, civilian
or scientific functions, we monitor the relative presence of every
man-made deep-space object in earth orbit," said Bruce Bookout,
GEODSS site manager with Northrop Grumman Technical Services.
"Those (who) utilize space to fight the (war on terrorism) need
to ensure those assets are available and are under no threat," Mr.
Bookout said. "We act as a passive police force, watching for
natural or artificial interference."
Each GEODSS site transmits its orbital data to US Strategic
Command's Joint Space Operations Center located at Cheyenne
Mountain Air Force Station in Colorado Springs, Colo. The center
maintains a satellite catalog of every man-made object in Earth's
GEODSS performs its mission using a one-meter telescope equipped
with highly sensitive digital camera technology, known as Deep
STARE. Each detachment has three of these telescopes that can be
used in conjunction with each other or separately. These telescopes
are able to "see" objects 10,000 times dimmer than the human eye
The Deep STARE system is able to track multiple satellites in
the field of view. As the satellites cross the sky, the telescopes
take rapid electronic snapshots, showing up on the operator's
console as tiny streaks. Computers then measure these streaks and
use the data to figure the current position of a satellite in its
orbit. Star images, which remain fixed, are used as references or
calibration points for each of the three telescopes.
"Space is the ultimate high ground, giving us the ability to
communicate over long distances and determine exact locations
through the Global Positioning System," said Maj. Jay Fulmer, Det.
"Many of our (servicemembers) serving on the front lines use
technology that is greatly enhanced through the use of space,"
Major Fulmer said. "(Our detachments, which are) part of a global
space surveillance network, ensure the US and our allies have the
ability to operate unencumbered in the medium of space, allowing
our troops direct access to space-derived force enhancements."
Thinking "big" is what these guys do.
"As mankind continues to explore and exploit the realm of space
there needs to be some accounting and understanding of the medium,"
Mr. Bookout said.
"Space is a new realm to the human experience. We've learned
much during the last 50 years, but we still have much more to
learn," Mr. Bookout said. "Space surveillance provides critical
information on the location of every man-made object in space. (It
ensures) our space-based assets are protected from potential
on-orbit collisions or from adversaries who might try to take away
our abilities to operate in space. This guarantees the warfighter
access to space-derived tools they need to execute their
(Aero-News salutes Master Sgt. Scott King, 40th Air
Expeditionary Group Public Affairs)