WAILEA, Hawaii — The Space Force expects to know by next spring what capabilities it will need to carry out space domain awareness activities in cislunar space.

In a talk during the Advanced Maui Optical and Space Surveillance Technologies (AMOS) Conference here Sept. 28, Col. Marc Brock, commander of Space Delta 2, the unit responsible for space domain awareness for the Space Force, said a study is underway by the 19th Space Defense Squadron (SDS) on what’s needed to monitor activities beyond geostationary orbit, called xGEO by the Space Force, and out to the moon.

That study, he said, will look at requirements to create an “operational capability” for cislunar or xGEO space domain awareness. That includes training, technologies and centers needed to carry out the mission. He said that report should be ready by next April or May.

“Following that, the timeframe to have a viable capability is dependent on the resourcing that we have as a service,” he said. Some existing ground-based resources already exist to carry out that mission, he said, but said there will likely need to be new space-based systems.

“We need a space-based capability to really provide the surveillance of xGEO or cislunar and so I can’t give you a timeframe for when that is,” he said.

There are some technology demonstration efforts underway, like the Air Force Research Laboratory’s Cislunar Highway Patrol System, or CHPS. That is a mission planned for launch in 2025 to operate in cislunar space, testing technologies to track and identify objects there.

Brock referred to those efforts, but said an operational system based on something like CHPS may take considerably longer to implement. “To really have a long-term viable operational capability, it’s going to take will and it’s going to take resources,” he said. “I can’t answer a specific time other than we will be postured hopefully within the next several years to utilize the resources that are available to perform that mission.”

The work on cislunar space domain awareness is one of the missions of the 19th SDS, which he described as an “innovation sandbox” for Space Delta 2. The squadron has also taken over conjunction assessment work that was previously done by the 18th Space Defense Squadron, a move he said was a “precursor” to shifting civil space traffic management responsibilities to the Commerce Department.

He said the work with Commerce on that transition is going well but did not go into details about that work. “We are committed 110% to helping the DOC establish their function,” he said, claiming there no challenges in that effort. “They have a lot of work to do to secure funding and determine exactly when they want to roll out capability, but we’re side by side with the DOC to help them as much as we possibly can.”

Jeff Foust writes about space policy, commercial space, and related topics for SpaceNews. He earned a Ph.D. in planetary sciences from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and a bachelor’s degree with honors in geophysics and planetary science...