DARPA Puts Price on Space Tracking System

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The U.S. Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) will spend as much as $1.4 million to develop a program to track objects in low-inclination, low Earth orbit, according to a posting on the Federal Business Opportunities (FBO) website Feb. 14.

In December, the agency called for white papers on ideas to track objects in low-inclination, low Earth orbit. More specifically, DARPA is interested in tracking objects as small as 10 centimeters across in orbits of less than 1,000 kilometers in altitude and at inclinations of 20 degrees or less relative to the equator. 

A RAND Corp. study released this year said the amount of debris orbiting Earth has increased by more than 40 percent since 2007. 

In an answer to questions posted to the FBO website, DARPA said the proposers could suggest ways to allocate as much as $1.4 million between two phases in the program. 

The first phase would include development and begin in the third quarter of 2014. The second phase is a potential yearlong prototype demonstration effort that would begin in the fourth quarter of 2015 and would include data collection. 

In answering another question, DARPA was noncommittal as to whether the data would be used by the U.S. Air Force’s upgraded Joint Space Operations Center, which analyzes vast quantities of data drawn from the ground- and space-based sensors that comprise the U.S. Space Surveillance Network.