U.S. Putting Space-tracking Radar, Telescope in Australia

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The U.S. military is placing a space-surveillance radar and satellite-tracking telescope in Australia in an effort to advance a long-term international partnership for space situational awareness, the Pentagon announced Nov. 14.

Australia has agreed to host a U.S. Air Force C-band ground-based radar system that provides a sensor for the U.S. Space Surveillance Network, according to the announcement. A Space Surveillance Telescope that the U.S. Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency finished testing in New Mexico this summer will be relocated to Australia, where it is expected “to provide coverage of a more densely populated region of the geostationary belt,” the Pentagon said.

The United States and Australia signed an agreement in November 2010 to cooperate on space situational awareness activities. Both countries will share the relocation and operational costs for the two systems, according to the Pentagon announcement.

The Space Surveillance Network is a system that the U.S. and its allies will use to track about 200 objects each day in low Earth orbit. The C-band radar used for the program will be operated from the Harold E. Holt Naval Communications Station at North West Cape in Western Australia and will be delivered in 2014. After it is relocated, it will be the first low Earth orbit space surveillance network sensor in the Southern Hemisphere.

The Australians are working to pick a site for SST, according to the Pentagon announcement. It will detect smaller objects than the existing Ground Based Electro-Optical Deep Space Surveillance telescopes. SST completed its test and evaluation period in August. It provides a full picture of objects, including microsatellites and space debris, in geosynchronous orbits.

The U.S. National Security Space Strategy, released in January 2011, calls for increased partnerships with other nations. The strategy states that shared awareness of the orbital environment will prevent mishaps, misperceptions and mistrust.