SST, from U.S. to Australia

An agreement was signed between the respective governments to place in Australia the latest American discovery of surveillance of debris (and not only of debris) in space. After two years of testing in New Mexico, the Space Surveillance Telescope is ready to pack up for the new destination, where we can keep an eye on the southern hemisphere.



The Space Surveillance Telescope (SST) is a DARPA backed technology scientifically advanced by MIT Lincoln Laboratory to expressively augment the nation’s abilities in space situational consciousness. The SST’s assignment is to deliver timely remarks of satellites and cosmic debris, mainly at the geosynchronous area positioned at roughly 36,000 km from the Earth’s surface. The spread of microsatellites and cosmic debris underlines the meaning of building and maintaining accurate and complete the catalog of cosmic objects. Current data of the space background is the key to preserving vital cosmic resources.

An increasing number of functions of central importance for a nation are entrusted for the operation of satellites. At the same time, it is becoming quite crowded on the geostationary band orbit, around 36,000 km above the earth’s surface, where it is always the higher the risk that insidious fragments, even in the tiniest size, could damage or even put entirely out of these valuable orbiters.

It is not surprising, therefore, that the U.S. Department of Defense is the best equipped to monitor space objects of small fragments or mini- satellites, so far observed with difficulty. To this end, DARPA , the agency for advanced research projects for the defense , has developed the Space Surveillance Telescope ( SST), an innovative telescope for the detection, tracking and identification of objects in deep space.

Located in New Mexico, White Sands missile base, where the last two years has been tested thoroughly, the SST will now be moved to Australia. And in fact it has been recently signed an agreement between the two countries for relocation of SST at the Harold E. Holt Naval Communication Station in Exmouth, in the western part of the continent of Oceania. When it will be fully operational in the new site around 2016, SST will represent an important contribution to the control of the southern hemisphere; one half of the sky is currently not covered by surveillance systems of geosynchronous belt.

Among the notable features, SST offers unprecedented speed in finding small objects in space, thanks to the innovative design, type of Mersenne -Schmidt, as well as its curved CCD sensor, the first of its kind. This combination allows a more compact compared to telescopes of similar capacity, making it one of the fastest and most agile telescopes of this size.

SST can scan an area of sky as big as the Australia in seconds, and completely analyze the geosynchronous belt several times a night: an order of magnitude faster than outdated telescopes. In addition, SST is ten times more sensitive than the best current systems, which makes it able to find and track a lot smaller objects, less bright and more transient than its predecessors have made.

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