The Basic Aerospace Doctrine of the United States Air Force specifies aerospace control as the key mission that is associated with the core competence of air and space superiority. This Doctrine requires that the Air Force gain and maintain dominance of space through its control thereof. This mission can be divided into three categories: space surveillance, protection, and negation. Although defensive counterspace operations (DCS) and offensive counterspace operations (OCS) are the pillars of space dominance and superiority (SDS), Space Situation Awareness (SSA) serves as the base for their effective functioning.
Thus, the accomplishment of the space dominance and superiority mission relies on the combination of intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR), together with real-time communication and information processing technologies that are the major enablers of this mission. Therefore, progress in system development that provides better and more effective Space Situation Awareness enhances the capabilities in space dominance and superiority and is desirable.
Space superiority is a fundamental part of a military air and space doctrine. Space superiority is gained and maintained through the application of counterspace operations. These counterspace operations are critical to success in modern warfare. Combatant commanders leverage space capabilities to maintain a combat advantage over adversaries. Space superiority ensures a freedom to operate in the space medium while denying the same to adversaries. Key to acquiring and maintaining space superiority is quick and accurate assessments of whether detected objects in a monitored space present a threat of harm to other items in the monitored space. As such, appropriate action can be taken only in response to threatening objects to maintain space superiority. Achieving the goal of accurate and efficient decision making to evaluate potential threat scenarios, however, is enormously challenging.
One Air Force top priority is to enhance awareness of the space domain. The Air Forec is leading an effort to fundamentally change the approach to SSA operations from cataloging to warfighting. In a warfighting domain, domain awareness is essential to successful mission accomplishment. Todayís SSA capability is catalogued focused and based on passive tracking. As potential adversaries continue to field capabilities that challenge our freedom of access in space, the Air Force needs better SSA tools, methodologies and CONOPS to enhance the Nationís SSA mission.
AFSPC, in partnership with the NRO, has taken action codified in a CONOPS to guide the way forward in this endeavor. It has already activated the 18th Space Control Squadron (18 SPCS) under the 21st Space Wing in order to increase overall operational effectiveness and agility. The 18 SPCS, as the focal point for SSA, will drive great tactical synergy alongside other SSA units.
Gen. John W. Raymond, the head of Air Force Space Command, said in written testimony in May 2017 that AFSPC and NRO have developed an SSA architecture designed to meet the DoD and Intelligence Community needs to enable space protection. As a result of the architecture work, they have developed a collaborative acquisition program to meet both NRO and Air Force Indications and Warning and SSA requirements.
This new program is called SILENT BARKER [probably two words, not one, although seen both ways]. Brig. Gen. Mark Baird, director of space programs, told reporters at a November 2017 briefing that the classified mission will involve a new capability in the space situational awareness portfolio, though officials declined to provide additional details.
Another element of SSA includes space traffic management (STM), a concept that includes technical as well as regulatory elements to provide a framework for the safety, security and stability of space activities in the future.
The Air Force is increasing analytical and prototyping efforts to support architecture development. This has already paid significant dividends as it changed the SILENT BARKER acquisition strategy to partner with the NRO to provide us greater capability, faster and at the same cost. in a formal solicitation released 31 January 2019, the Air Force said it planned to launch the new capability in fiscal 2022. The program is also referred to as NROL-107 in the solicitation documents.
An advanced integrated multi-sensor system (AIMS) can comprise a shared optical train that is configured to cooperate with a laser tracking system, a visible imaging system, and an infrared search and track system so as to provide an integrated multi-sensor system. The AIMS can be used for detection, tracking, characterization, discrimination of an object of interest in space, air, marine or submarine environment. An AIMS can comprise a plurality of sensors and a shared optical train. The shared optical train can be configured to facilitate the most effective and reliable fusion of the data from multiple various sensors so as to provide a single observation angle (sight) for the plurality of sensing elements and thus facilitate an enhanced ISR capabilities.
Reasoning about threat capability and probability posed by the known or unknown object may involve considering multiple hypotheses of potential threat capabilities and motive for the reasoned identity; and considering diplomatic, intelligence, military and economic (DIME) information corresponding to the reasoned identity to determine the most probable threat capability and probability. Reasoning to identify the object as a known object or unknown object may involve consulting space catalog information, considering kinematic information for the detected object to deduce the most probable identity of the detected object, and considering other available information potentially characterizing the object.
Reasoning about the identity of the object as a known object or unknown object may involve comparing the received sensor information data to data corresponding to known satellites, and matching the received sensor information data to one of the known satellite objects to identify the object or designating the object as an unknown object and create a new data profile for the unknown object for future analysis.
Modern space surveillance systems are typically either distributed or collocated sensor modules. Thus, such surveillance systems are not capable of providing a comprehensive set of surveillance measures for accurate target characterization and consistent track association for multiple various standard data sources. For example, the effectiveness of imaging sensors in detecting passive (non-radiating) space objects commonly depends on sun illumination. As such, Earth eclipsed targets are less detectable.
The fusion of data according to nowadays practice suffers from inherent deficiencies. Data derived from distributed or collocated sensors can be difficult to match for various reasons, including incompatible observation conditions, variant parallax registration, observation angle and scaling factors, and deficiency in a common time standard resulting in significantly in track association.
Difficulty may encounter in the data fusion process, such as in the superposing of target features accurately. Indeed, post processing of time and space partitioned data sources with uncertainty in data delay may render the outcome deficient or unusable.
Surveillance in general, and space surveillance in particular, requires capabilities for detection, tracking, imaging, and characterization of remote objects with their characteristics that are not distinct. In general, most current space surveillance systems are not capable of generating the desired tracking accuracy, and providing required object characterization because they are single sensor based.
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