Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Space-Based Space Surveillance launches

The U.S. Air Force lit up the night sky above California Saturday, with the launch of a new satellite sentinel to keep tabs on other spacecraft and the growing problem of space junk around Earth. The Space-Based Space Surveillance [SBSS] satellite will monitor the orbital environment as part of the U.S. military's evolving Space Surveillance Network.

The satellite blasted off from Vandenberg AFB atop a Minotaur 4 rocket at 21:41 PT. Air Force officials said the rocket reached its intended orbit and deployed the SBSS spacecraft as planned.

"This satellite is going to revolutionize the way we track objects in space by not being constrained by weather, the atmosphere or the time of day," said Col. J.R. Jordan, vice-commander of the Space Superiority Systems Wing at the U.S. Air Force Space and Missile Systems Center, in a prelaunch briefing. "This capability will be essential to our space situational awareness architecture for the near future and beyond." The satellite is essential to keep U.S. space assets safer and more secure, as well as "keeping America at the forefront of space," Jordan added.

The overall cost of the SBSS program is about $858 million, USAF officials have said. There are about 500,000 known pieces of space junk orbiting around our planet. Of those, about 21,000 objects are larger than 4 inches (10.1 cm) in diameter, and are being tracked by the Department of Defense, as part of the Space Surveillance Network. These are items like spent rocket stages and broken satellites.

The SBSS satellite was originally scheduled to launch in Oct. 2009 but was delayed due to technical concerns with its rocket launch vehicle, at least officially. Unofficially it is suspected that UNETIDA delayed the launch in order to add something to the payload. Lt. Colonel “Stargazer” Smith, Deputy Orbital Operations Commander, UNETIDA responded "No comment" to the rumour.

Source: MSNBC

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