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US Air Force reveals ‘neighborhood watch' satellite program

Published time: February 23, 2014 14:12
Edited time: February 25, 2014 16:16
Credit: NASA

Credit: NASA

The United States plans to send into orbit a pair of satellites to monitor spacecraft from other countries, as well as to track space debris, the head of Air Force Space Command said.

The US Air Force lifted the veil of secrecy on its previously classified Geosynchronous Space Situational Awareness Program (GSSAP), which will operate in conjunction with ground-based radars and telescopes to observe potential threats from foreign space objects, General William Shelton said at the Air Force Association meeting in Orlando on Friday.

The program will also be used for tracking thousands of pieces of space debris to avoid galactic collisions.

Referring to the satellite tracking system as a "neighborhood watch program," Shelton said the program "will bolster our ability to discern when adversaries attempt to avoid detection and to discover capabilities they may have which might be harmful to our critical assets at these higher altitudes."

Currently, the Air Force tracks some 23,000 pieces of orbiting debris larger than 4 inches (10.6 centimeters) at some 23,000 miles (37,000 km) above the Earth's surface.

However, since the United States already has in orbit a satellite better positioned to track orbital debris, military experts say the real purpose for the program is to prevent future attacks on its satellite network by potential rivals.

"I think the (Obama) Administration is being more honest when it says that it declassified this program to try and deter attacks on US satellites," Brian Weeden, technical advisor with the Washington-based Secure World Foundation, was quoted by Reuters as saying.

"The US has a lot of very specialized and important national security satellites in the GEO region and it is very concerned about protecting those satellites ... so by telling other countries that it has some ability to closely monitor objects near GEO and their behavior, the US hopes that will deter other countries from attacking its important satellites," Weeden said.

The satellites will also allow the US military to observe what other countries have in orbit.

"There's nothing wrong with that, but it is exactly the sort of thing the US is worried other countries will do to it," Weeden added.

The pair of satellites are scheduled for launch aboard an unmanned Delta 4 rocket at the end of 2014.

The price tag and technical details of the satellite program were not released.

Comments (24)


Pat Richards 26.02.2014 13:00

No reason to lie it is so that they can trace movement of other countries armies on ground. Russia should send couple of satelites up there so that it can monitor their movement and location.


Waschlaff Duschmann 24.02.2014 13:15

Interestingly it calls also for the development of a range of weapons not currently in public focus. Its not too speculative to assume that these projects are also continued and most likely highly classified. As the US navy starts to implement this kind of armament in actual weapon applications (because of the power requirements those are at the moment only suitable for ship-based operations) i'd also expect, under the cover of implementing high energy lasers and railguns into Arleigh-Burke and Zumwalt class destroyers for more exotic, classified equipment actually being fielded, such as neutral particle cannons.


Waschlaff Duschmann 24.02.2014 12:54

Steven Severn 24.02.2014 11:35

The Reagan era Star Wars program never really ended did it... The US just hid it and lied to the world, again.


Come on, this is obvious to anybody having even a slight glance on the declassified SDI documents: it initially called for a corporate driven space industry to provide space vehicles and drive down costs. Sounds familiar? Space-X anybody? You bet it does. Of course it ran along all the time, thats pretty obvious. If you look at the weapons development there are also programms which are proceeding along, such as high energy lasers.

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