Numerica, which runs a network of ground-centered telescopes to detect deep-space objects, is testing new devices that can monitor celestial satellites in plain daylight. The telescopes were financed with $3 million from a pitch day project sponsored by the United States Air Force in 2019 to draw space industry companies to the military sector.
According to Todd Brost, who serves as the director of special projects at the Numerica, six daytime telescopes capable of tracking satellites at elevations of over 22,000 miles are being constructed in Colorado, as well as in Australia and Spain. The Air Force wanted to invest in Numerica’s technologies for rendering daytime telescopes self-contained and less costly to run. According to Brost, the capital would be used to further commercialize and lower the expense of monitoring satellites without intrusion from the sun.
Today, only a few very big and costly telescopes are capable of imaging throughout the day. According to Brost, the Space Force, as well as US Space Command, need the further capability to track satellites under all-weather environments. According to Brost, the data from these latest sensors would be accessible to the Space Force. Numerica is talking to the government about longer-term alternatives, including constructing new government-owned properties. “Obviously, there is a range of choices for contracting to create items for them and buying data,” he clarified.
According to Brost, the government would be able to determine how these telescopes work under this deal before making a long-term commitment. Numerica secured a $750,000 Small Business Innovation Research grant at the space sector pitch day and raised an extra $2.25 million to help get the invention to market.
According to Brost, the sensors seem to be functioning well. “We’ve been able to detect active satellites during the middle of the day fairly accurately with a test system,” he said. “The only restriction is the orientation of the sun; you cannot look directly at the sun.”
According to Brost, the program’s next step would be to combine the daytime and nighttime sensor networks to get a full photo. “The government seems to be more involved in holding control of high-interest items over extended stretches of time so you can see how they maneuver or if they do anything unusual.”
The Space Force has its network of space monitoring cameras, although it needs to collaborate with commercial firms that are more versatile than the government in terms of hosting sites in other nations. “A lot of the locations we’re looking at are in areas where the US government will have a hard time putting infrastructure,” Brost stated.