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Unique Search and Track Procedures Utilizing the Ground-based Electro-Optical Deep Space Surveillance (GEODSS) Worldwide Sites

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Conference paper

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The GEODSS Vela Search Team developed revolutionary, new procedures for searching for man-made objects in deep space. The procedures were designed to find the Vela communication satellites launched in the 1960s. The satellites were in very high and eccentric orbits and had not been tracked in over 40 years. The approach used the sun to provide illumination along with modifying optical parameters. The GEODSS team has found 6 lost Vela satellites and enhanced the Air Force Space Command satellite catalog. This Vela Search Team worked with the Air Force to aggressively launch a first-ever proactive campaign against a series of lost satellites using our three GEODSS optical detachments. Two new tactics, techniques procedures were successfully used to capture very hard to track objects. The revisit time was increased from intermittent and yearly tracking to weeks or better for 3 Velas lost for over four decades. Lessons learned were established for Vela other orbit types. The Joint Space Operations Center JSPOC analysts stated that the Vela search and tracking was a great success. Additionally, a GEODSS Space Shuttle Track Team was the first to use a deep space observing telescope to observe the space shuttle flying at low altitude. The Team developed a procedure using modified optical viewing parameters and new search techniques using the GEODSS telescope in a mission it was not designed to perform. The team was able to observe the space shuttle 14 times over two nights. The ability to observe and then successfully repeat the process was an astronomical achievement. The GEODSS team accomplishment contributed to shuttle safety and mission success.

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  • Spacecraft Trajectories and Reentry

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