US scientists have developed a series of mini-satellites tasked with patrolling the Earth’s orbit. The so-called “space cops” are intended to help satellites avoid collisions with space junk. The Space-Based Telescopes for Actionable Refinement of Ephemeris (STARE) is the brainchild of researchers at the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL) in California. The program envisions deploying scores of tiny satellites to work in low-Earth orbit. The satellites would then relay information about potential collisions between satellites and space debris to operators back on Earth, who would then correct their orbits from the ground.
The scientists used a series of six images over a 60-hour period taken from a ground-based satellite to prove that a satellite’s orbit can be refined in low-Earth orbit. Using the ground-based satellite, the researchers refined the orbit of the NORAD 27006 satellite, based on the first four observations made within the initial 24 hours. The team managed to successfully predict NORAD’s trajectory to within less than 50 meters over 36 hours. The team believes their success with NORAD 27006 can be replicated with other satellites as well.“Eventually our satellite will be orbiting and making the same sort of observations to help prevent satellite-on-satellite and satellite-on-debris collisions in space,” said Lance Simms, lead author of a paper appearing in an upcoming edition of the Journal of Small Satellites. More