Space Situational Awareness (SSA) encompasses a capability that can predict conditions in the near-Earth space environment, including the physical locations and velocities of natural and man-made objects and space weather. A critical mission of SSA is collision avoidance. Due to the rapid increase in space junk and debris, this has become a growing concern for both military and commercial systems as we become more reliant on our assets in space. SSI has focused on identifying and characterizing maneuvers, which pose a particular challenge to the US Space Surveillance Network which is tasked with tracking all Earth orbiting objects.
SSI develops models, sensors, and algorithms for characterization and tracking of objects and debris – including active spacecraft, space junk, and debris fields caused by satellite collisions and defensive intercepts. One of our principal efforts is the development of a debris cloud signature tool in support of the development of the ballistic missile defense system. The tool is used to simulate the physical, chemical and radiative processes ensuring a successful intercept of a high-altitude missile. The development and validation of this tool represents a significant advancement for assessing the outcome of an intercept and for testing new sensors and algorithms.