Improvements to U.S. Air Force surveillance telescopes located in Science City, Hawaii, near the Haleakala Crater, will improve the complex’s ability to keep track of objects orbiting Earth.
Work was completed on the first of three new Ground-based Electro Optical Deep Space Surveillance system telescopes Nov. 3, which are assigned to Detachment 3 of the 18th Space Surveillance Squadron.
Each of the $1.1 million telescopes is used to track satellites in orbit around Earth, particularly deep space satellites, such as those used for communication. The Maui portion of the project is valued at about $1.2 million and is contracted by Contraves-Brashear. Local Boeing and Litton-PRC employees are performing the work.
The telescopes are connected to very sensitive low-light television cameras and controlled by powerful computers on Maui and at Edwards Air Force Base, Calif.
The telescopes track more than 500 satellites daily for Air Force Space Command and the North American Aerospace Defense Command at Cheyenne Mountain Air Station, Colo.
"The positional data we gather on satellites is critical," said Maj. Sam McNiel, Det. 3, 18th SPSS commander. "It helps the Air Force keep track of the location of almost all of the nearly 9,000 satellites in orbit. That helps governments and private companies keep their satellites from colliding with one another. It also helps NASA ensure the safety of the space shuttle or the international space station. Our Hawaii location is very important because it allows us to provide data for a large part of sky over the Pacific Ocean."
The telescope replacement project, called the GEODSS Telescope
Refurbishment program, replaces the existing GEODSS telescopes with completely rebuilt ones. The existing GEODSS telescopes were installed in 1983 and have not been refurbished since then.
"The new optics and mirrors in these refurbished telescopes should allow us to detect even smaller objects," said McNiel. "With the old telescopes we could see a basketball 22,000 miles away. Hopefully, we can
substantially improve on that. It’s important we be able to track as small an object as possible because things in orbit are going about 17,000 miles per hour, so a collision with even a small object can cause a catastrophic failure for a spacecraft."
The GEODSS system also includes sites at Socorro, N.M. and in the Indian Ocean on the island of Diego Garcia. All three sites’ actions are coordinated by a command and control facility operated by the 18th SPSS.
Besides the GEODSS telescopes, the Maui Space Surveillance Complex has seven other telescopes operated by the Air Force. The telescopes are used to track satellites, take pictures of satellites and conduct research. The research focuses on improving sensors to be able to gather more information about satellites and to learn more about the earth’s atmosphere. (Courtesy of PACAF News Service)
Workers raise a 14,800-pound Ground Based Electro Optical Deep Space Surveillance system telescope mount into position at the Maui Space Surveillance Complex in Hawaii, Nov. 3. (Courtesy photo)