Satellite Tracking with Optical Telescopes

Currently, the United States Air Force (USAF) is tasked with tracking approximately 17,000 man-made satellites using 29 sites that make up the Space Surveillance Network (SSN).  However, the number of objects in space is increasing at an exponential rate making it very difficult for the current SSN to sufficiently accomplish this mission.  To meet with future demand, the USAF has recently become interested in exploring the use of low-cost optical telescopes to supplement the existing SSN.  Adding these new assets has the potential to improve both the number and the fidelity of tracks the network can produce, but these sensors have additional constraints for when they are appropriate to be used including the time of day, weather conditions, and other unforeseen outages.  One way to compensate for these constraints is to deploy these sensors in large numbers, but that presents a scaling issue in the tasking of targets to sensors if the system is to be utilized efficiently.

Working with the Air Force Research Labs (AFRL) Advanced Planning Concepts Branch (AFRL/RISC), we are investigating the application of distributed resource allocation protocols to the problem of tasking the SSN to track satellites.