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The Space Force is considering using less expensive sensors to monitor geostationary orbit

The US Space Force has given two $38 million contracts to GEOST, which is a small Tucson, Arizona-centered company, to create an optical sensor payload which can survey the geostationary belt approximately 22,000 miles above Earth.

Contracts worth $6 million in November of 2020 as well as $32 million in December of 2021 were awarded to the firm for ground infrastructure development and design, technical assistance, sensor development, and integration with the launch vehicle and host platform. According to Joshua Hartman, who works as the vice president (VP) as well as general manager (GM) of GEOST, the actual payload costs below $10 million, a key cost consideration that Space Force believes will enable mass deployment.

The payload is going to be ready to release in 2023, according to Hartman. The Space Force is yet to name a host satellite, but this initiative’s purpose is to create sensors which could be deployed on virtually any US or even allied government spacecraft, as well as commercial satellites, to offer space domain awareness (SDA).

The Space Force aims to disseminate these sensors across the geostationary orbit, according to Hartman, therefore the $10 million intended price is crucial.

 

‘Recurring visits’

According to a solicitation released by the SSC (Space Systems Command) on October 21, the Space Force is contemplating procuring a large number of the “space domain awareness sensors to enhance present and prospective systems.” Many sensors would be necessary to accomplish “frequent revisits of significant portions of the GEO belt.”

According to the Space Force’s information request, the goal is to show militarily effective space domain awareness-centered sensor technologies with significantly lower ongoing engineering costs. As per Hartman, the cost of $10 million is a portion of what military has spent on space sensors in the past. It was going to be far less costly than launching dedicated satellites to monitor the GEO belt.

The Space Systems Command (SSC), according to Hartman, is aiming to analyze the industry’s ability to manufacture a minimum of three to four sensors every year, if not more. When the GEOST payload deployments in the year 2023 and shows its capabilities, he added that the company expects to secure a manufacturing contract.

The Space Force has been holding talks with the international partners about putting American payloads aboard their spacecraft. Two SDA (space domain awareness) payloads will be carried on Japan’s QZSS (Quasi-Zenith Satellite System) navigation satellites. “The fundamental aim of the initiative is to demonstrate a successful space partnership between the US and Japan while achieving SDA utility,” program officials stated in a white paper. “This program will pave the way for potential international and/or commercial collaboration.”

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