Thursday, August 21, 2014
Inquirer Daily News

2 U.S. satellites to keep eye on spacecraft, debris

CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. - The United States plans to launch a pair of satellites to keep tabs on spacecraft from other countries orbiting 22,300 miles above the planet, as well as to track space debris, the head of Air Force Space Command said.

The previously classified Geosynchronous Space Situational Awareness Program (GSSAP) will supplement ground-based radars and optical telescopes in tracking thousands of pieces of debris so orbital collisions can be avoided, Gen. William Shelton said Friday.

He called it a "neighborhood watch program" that would provide a more detailed perspective on space activities. He said the satellites, scheduled to be launched this year, also will be used to ferret out potential threats from other spacecraft.

The two-satellite network, built by Orbital Sciences Corp., will drift around the orbital corridor housing much of the world's communications satellites and other spacecraft.

The Air Force currently tracks about 23,000 pieces of orbiting debris bigger than about 4 inches. These range from old rocket bodies to the remains of an exploded Chinese satellite.

Irene Klotz Reuters
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