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U.S. Air Force Maj. Jay Fulmer, Detachment 2 Ground-Based Electro-Optical Deep Space Surveillance System commander, views Space and Missile Analyst software at the GEODSS facility located at Diego Garcia, British Indian Ocean Territory. Courtesy photo
Satellite Provides Vital Information to Military

Roughly 15,000 miles above the earth’s surface, a communications
satellite provides vital information to all branches of the U.S. military.

By U.S. Air Force Master Sgt. Scott King / 40th Air Expeditionary Group Public Affairs

DIEGO GARCIA, British Indian Ocean Territory, May 1, 2006 – Roughly 15,000 miles above the earth’s surface, a communications satellite provides vital information to all branches of the U.S. military.

It joins more than 9,000 other items in space that are tracked by the Ground-Based Electro-Optical Deep Space Surveillance System.

Currently, there are three operational GEODSS sites that report directly to the 21st Operations Group, 21st Space Wing, Peterson Air Force Base, Colo.

They are Detachment 1 - Socorro, N.M.; Detachment 2 - Diego Garcia, British Indian Ocean Territory; and Detachment 3 – Maui, Hawaii.

Each site is responsible for thousands of known man-made deep space objects in orbit around the Earth at an altitude of 10,000 to 45,000 km. These objects range from active payloads, such as satellites, to “space junk” such as launch vehicle debris and debris generated from satellite breakups.

“We watch the back of those executing the global war on terrorism,” said Bruce Bookout, GEODSS site manager, Northrop Grumman Technical Services.

"As various on-orbit satellites perform their military, civilian or scientific functions, we monitor the relative presence of every man-made deep space object in earth orbit."

Bruce Bookout, GEODSS site manager

“As various on-orbit satellites perform their military, civilian or scientific functions, we monitor the relative presence of every man-made deep space object in earth orbit,” he explained.

“Those that utilize space to fight the global war on terrorism need to ensure those assets are available and are under no threat – we act as a passive police force watching for natural or artificial interference,” Bookout noted.

GEODSS transmits its orbital data to U.S. Strategic Command's Joint Space Operations Center located within Cheyenne Mountain Air Force Station in Colorado Springs, Colo.

The center is responsible for maintaining a Satellite Catalog of every man-made object in Earth’s orbit.

GEODSS performs its mission using a one-meter telescope that is equipped with a highly sensitive digital camera technology, known as Deep STARE.

Each detachment has three of these telescopes that can be used in conjunction with each other or separately.  These telescopes are able to “see” objects 10,000 times dimmer than the human eye can detect.

See Caption.
The Ground-Based Electro-Optical Deep Space Surveillance System facility at Diego Garcia, British Indian Ocean Territory, one of three operational sites world-wide, tracks known man-made deep space objects in orbit around the earth. Courtesy photo

The Deep STARE system is able to track multiple satellites in the field of view.  As the satellites cross the sky, the telescopes take rapid electronic snapshots, showing up on the operator’s console as tiny streaks.

Computers then measure these streaks and use the data to figure the current position of a satellite in its orbit.  Star images, which remain fixed, are used as a reference or calibration points for each of the three telescopes. 
They are focused on performing their role for the safety and security of the United States.

“Space is the ultimate high ground giving us the ability to communicate over long distances and determining exact locations through the global positioning satellite system,” said Maj. Jay Fulmer, Det. 2 GEODSS commander.

“Many of our servicemen and women serving on the front lines use technology that is greatly enhanced through the use of space. Det. 2, which is a part of a global space surveillance network, ensures the U.S. and our allies the ability to operate unencumbered in the medium of space, allowing our troops direct access to space derived force enhancements,” he said.

Thinking “big” is what these guys do.

“As mankind continues to explore and exploit the realm of space there needs to be some accounting and understanding of the medium,” Bookout said. “Space is a new realm to the human experience.”

We’ve learned much during the last 50 years, but we still have much more to learn,” he noted. “Space surveillance provides critical information on the location of every man-made object in space ensuring our space base assets are protected from potential on-orbit collisions or from adversaries who might try to take away our abilities to operate in space – this guarantees the war fighter access to space derived tools they need to execute their mission.”

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