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Haystack X-band radar

Contributing sensors are not under USSPACECOM's operational control; however, they provide observation data on satellites to USSPACECOM on a contributing basis. There are two contributing sensors located at Tyngsboro, Massachusetts. The Haystack radar, an X-band radar, operates at 10 gigahertz and is the only wideband radar in the western hemisphere able to image in deep space. Haystack operates eight scheduled five-day sessions and two recalls per year. (A recall requires four to eight hours to reconfigure equipment.) The other contributing sensor at Tyngsboro, is the Milistone L-band radar, operating at 1,295 MHz.

The Haystack Observatory 37-meter telescope is a fully steerable, remotely accessible radio telescope operating at millimeter wavelengths for astronomical research and education. MIT Lincoln Laboratory developed the Haystack facility in the 1960s as a step in the technological evolution of high-performance microwave systems. Haystack is now used for two purposes. Part of the year it is used by the MIT Haystack Observatory as a radio-telescope to conduct research and for education activities. As a radio-telescope, the Haystack antenna is used to conduct single-dish radio astronomy in the 22-25 GHz, 35-50 GHz and 85-115 GHz frequency bands, and for Very Long Baseline Interferometry experiments.

Haystack provides space object identification and metric data to the Air Force to aid SSA operations. Since 1981, the Haystack radar system has provided positional data and images of satellites in all orbit altitudes out to deep space. The military routinely use such images to verify identity and determine health and status of satellites. These images are used by the United States Strategic Command to assess satellite structure, mission, and status.

The radar is also used to collect data on orbiting space debris. The Haystack radar has demonstrated the capability to track objects in low earth orbit (LEO) down to 1 cm in size. Orbiting debris could be a threat to the International Space Station, the Space Shuttle, and other satellites. The Haystack Radar has been the major contributor to understanding the space debris environment in the 1-10 cm size regime.

The Haystack Auxiliary Radar, or HAX, came online in 1993. Operating at approximately 16 GHz, HAX provides potent satellite-imaging capability that can be used when the larger Haystack antenna must operate in a radio-astronomy mode. Both Haystack and HAX contribute data to a NASA-sponsored survey of orbital debris.

The Haystack 37-meter telescope is being upgraded by MIT Lincoln Laboratory to operate as a radar at 95 GHz. When the joint DARPA / Air Force program to upgrade Haystack is complete, this new radar will provide images which will give a factor of - 10 improvement in our ability to measure small physical features of spacecraft. This will greatly enhance the capabilities of radio astronomy as well, opening the 85-115 GHz frequency range for users.

The upgrade effort will build a W-band high-power transmitter enabling object imaging with resolution significantly greater than the X-band system's 25-centimeter resolution; it will also replace the existing antenna and processing equipment with more modern hardware and software compatible with W-band operations in an architecture that also supports year-round X-band surveillance for the Air Force. Greater radar resolution is necessary to maintain current levels of space object identification intelligence since satellites are becoming smaller than ever, making X-band characterization of them increasingly difficult.

The FY2007 budget for Haystack Ultra-Wideband Satellite Imaging Radar, upgrades the X-band Haystack radar at the Lincoln Space Surveillance Complex in Westford, Massachusetts. The final testing of the new radar was completed in 2009.

The Haystack Ultra-wideband Satellite Imaging Radar (HUSIR) upgrades the Haystack radar's X-band 1 MHz bandwidth system by adding a W-band capability and enhancing imaging resolution to support SSN object characterization and tracking.

IN FY 2011 the program completed the following post-antenna installation activities: surface panel installation, large crane removal, antenna panel surface alignment, hydrostatic bearing testing, and coarse antenna balancing. Azimuth and elevation antenna rotation and control system testing was begun. In FY 2012 the project performed analysis and assessment of repair alternatives for the antenna structure that mechanically seized during initial testing; continued control system testing and antenna balancing; and conducted X-Band testing, and initial X-Band operating capability. In FY 2013 the project commenced W-Band testing, verify surface alignment through surface panel holography, completed W-Band testing and perform W-Band Military Utility Assessment (MUA) which completed the project.

The Massachusetts Institute of Technology's Lincoln Laboratory (MIT/LL), a non-profit Federally-Funded Research & Development Center, performs the HUSIR effort under a master contract with the Electronic Systems Center, in conjunction with support from other agencies as required. This effort is classified as applied research under that contract. MIT/LL transferred ownership of the radar to the Air Force but continues to operate it as part of its Lincoln Space Surveillance Complex as per contract with the Air Force. MIT/LL will be responsible for operations and sustainment of the upgraded Haystack radar. The upgrade effort was completed in FY13.




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