The US Air Force space command plans to operate Space Surveillance Telescope (SST) in Australia jointly with the Australian government.
US Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) handed over the SST to USAF Space Command at a ceremony in New Mexico. The event marked the formal transition of SST from an Agency-led design and construction program to ownership and operation by the Air Force, DARPA said in a statement earlier this week.
SST embodies breakthroughs in telescope design, camera technology, and image analysis software and enables much faster discovery and tracking of previously unseen or hard-to-find small space objects. This optical telescope is poised to revolutionize space situational awareness and help prevent potential collisions with satellites or the Earth itself.
Lindsay Millard, DARPA program manager for SST: “SST is focused on tracking and identifying debris and satellites about 36,000 kilometers above the Earth. Besides the fact that this is very far away, which means that most objects are going to be very faint, the mission is made especially difficult because of the huge amount of space we’re talking about. GEO has a volume of tens of thousands of oceans. Before SST, no single telescope could handle both of these challenges: seeing things that are very small, very faint, and very far away, simultaneously over an enormously vast area.”
Eric Evans, director of MIT Lincoln Laboratory, the Federally Funded Research and Development Center (FFRDC) leading the team that built SST: “The SST was built as a technology demonstrator and it has sensitivity beyond what we could do before, nationally, to look for very, very small objects, and there’s a great need for this.”
Steven Walker, DARPA Deputy Director: “That’s why the U.S. Department of Defense has made space situational awareness a top priority and why few areas of DARPA research are as important to the future of U.S. and global security. In Air Force Space Command, we at DARPA could not ask for a more qualified and enthusiastic partner.”
Maj. Gen. Nina Armagno, Director of Strategic Plans, Programs, Requirements and Analysis, Headquarters Air Force Space Command: “SST is a giant leap forward in space cooperation with the United States and Australia. It not only benefits each of our respective nations, but it benefits anyone that uses space across the globe.”