U.S. Space Surveillance Telescope in Australia achieves initial operational capability

  • Published
  • By SpOC Staff Writer
  • Space Operations Command
PETERSON SPACE FORCE BASE, Colo. – The Australian Department of Defence and the U.S. Space Force declared initial operational capability for the Space Surveillance Telescope at Naval Communication Station Harold E. Holt, Australia, Sept. 30, 2022.
The SST is a military telescope that provides ground-based, broad-area search, detection and tracking of faint objects in deep space to help predict and avoid potential collisions, as well as detect and monitor asteroids.
Commander Defence Space Command, Air-Vice Marshal Cath Roberts said this milestone was an important step for the Alliance and the future of space capability in Australia.
“In an increasingly contested and congested space environment, The Space Surveillance Telescope will provide enhanced awareness of the space domain and contribute to greater Alliance cooperation,” Roberts said. “The bespoke facilities and supporting infrastructure are as much of a milestone as the telescope itself and represent a significant achievement by Defence and Australian industry.”
The SST was relocated from White Sands Missile Range, New Mexico, to Australia in 2017 as a combined effort to develop Australia’s space domain awareness capabilities. While the U.S. still owns the SST, Australia is responsible for the facilities and infrastructure, operators, and training.
U.S. Space Force Gen. John “Jay” Raymond, Chief of Space Operations, emphasized the need for strong international partnerships to continually improve U.S. and Allied space capabilities.
“Reaching initial operational capability is a major achievement that underscores the importance of working together to secure the ultimate high ground,” Raymond said. “My thanks and congratulations to our Australian partners and our Guardians and Airmen who have been collaborating for almost a decade to make this possible. I’m impressed at how far we’ve come together and look forward to continuing our close partnership as we work toward full operational capability.”
The SST will contribute to the U.S. Space Surveillance Network, a U.S. Space Command capability operated by the USSF to detect, track, catalog and identify artificial objects orbiting the earth. The telescope’s strategic location in Australia provides unique space domain awareness coverage in the region.
In November 2013, then-U.S. Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel and then-Australian Defence Minister David Johnston signed a memorandum of understanding to relocate and jointly operate the telescope. In March 2020, the SST captured its first images from Australia of objects in space. Since then, it has undergone a rigorous test and evaluation program to transition it from a scientific research system to a military asset ready to support ongoing operations. Full operational capability is projected to be achieved in late 2023.
The SST is capable of imaging objects in geosynchronous orbit, approximately 22,000 miles above earth. Its data processing system can filter through more than a terabyte of data per night, as well as receive and process images in real time to determine precise satellite positions.
Space domain awareness refers to the study and monitoring of artificial objects, such as satellites and debris, orbiting the earth. In the USSF, this responsibility falls under Space Delta 2 - Space Domain Awareness. Delta 2 prepares and presents assigned and attached forces for the purpose of executing combat-ready space domain awareness operations to deter aggression and, if necessary, fight to protect and defend the U.S. and Allies from attack in, through and from space.