Telescope Track Space Junk. Space junk is now being tracked by a telescope to protect secret satellites. It’s being used for a costly mission to monitor international assets in orbit around the Earth.
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“We’ve got a lot of high-value missions up there, and if you’re trying to do those missions with a blindfold on, you just don’t know what’s going to run into you at any time,” says Chuck Laing, deputy division chief of the Architecture and Integration branch of Air Force Space Command at Peterson Air Force Base in Colorado. “It’s important to know where everything is, how fast it’s moving, and in what direction.”Researchers are currently tracking an estimated 22,000 artificial objects that are orbiting Earth, from small bits of debris to large satellites. That number is expected to triple in the next 20 years, says Laing. Even a centimetre-sized piece of debris can cause considerable damage to crucial weather, communication or missile-warning systems.
The US Air Force keeps a catalogue of all known orbiting objects through its Space Surveillance Network, an integrated system of ground- and space-based telescopes and radar. The network tracks debris to anticipate possible impacts, but better surveillance is needed to cope with the increasing number of objects, says Laing. The SST would focus mostly on the region in which objects in geosynchronous orbit reside, about 35,000 kilometres from Earth.