DARPA’S Expensive Telescope Tracks Space Debris, Keeps Satellites Safe

Apr 26, 2011

DARPA has announced the Space Surveillance Telescope (SST) that was developed in conjunction with MIT and the Air Force. The telescope will be used to give wide angle views of space and view images previously impossible to see. The SST ushers in a new generation of ground-based telescopes and gives the Air Force a better ability to monitor the geosynchronous orbit around the Earth, where room is getting tight with older satellites going out of commission and new satellites constantly being launched.

The SST took over nine years to develop and cost over $110 million. The SST is able to create these larger and more detailed images because of its innovative design. The telescope has a curved charge coupled device (CCD) technology and a 3.5-meter aperture. This allows the SST to create wide-angle lenses and capture more light than any other ground-based telescope before. “Currently we have a ‘soda straw’ view of deep space, where we can only see one narrow segment of space at a time,” said Air Force Lt. Col. Travis Blake, DARPA’s Space Surveillance Telescope program manager. “The Space Surveillance Telescope should give us a much wider ‘windshield’ view of deep space objects, significantly enhancing our space situational awareness.”

The main concern is for the defense satellites the military has up there and the possibility of collision with all that debris in orbit. The new design makes the SST much more compact and nimble than previous generation telescopes, allowing it to cover more sky in less amount of time. If the SST is a success, the Air Force could deploy more of the telescopes around the globe, giving the military a complete 360° surveillance view of the planet.

[via PhysOrg]

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