Improved Space Surveillance Network (SSN) Scheduling


There are close to 20,000 cataloged manmade objects in space, the large majority of which are not active, functioning satellites. These are tracked by phased array and mechanical radars and ground and space-based optical telescopes, collectively known as the Space Surveillance Network (SSN). A better SSN schedule of observations could, using exactly the same legacy sensor resources, improve space catalog accuracy through more complementary tracking, provide better responsiveness to real-time changes, better track small debris in low earth orbit (LEO) through efficient use of applicable sensors, efficiently track deep space (DS) frequent revisit objects, handle increased numbers of objects and new types of sensors, and take advantage of future improved communication and control to globally optimize the SSN schedule. We have developed a scheduling algorithm that takes as input the space catalog and the associated covariance matrices and produces a globally optimized schedule for each sensor site as to what objects to observe and when. This algorithm is able to schedule more observations with the same sensor resources and have those observations be more complementary, in terms of the precision with which each orbit metric is known, to produce a satellite observation schedule that, when executed, minimizes the covariances across the entire space object catalog. If used operationally, the results would be significantly increased accuracy of the space catalog with fewer lost objects with the same set of sensor resources. This approach inherently can also trade-off fewer high priority tasks against more lower-priority tasks, when there is benefit in doing so.