tech track papers
Categories: 2019, Space Situational Awareness
Most major collisions in Earth’s orbit are not detected until after they occur. This includes the 2009 collision between a defunct Cosmos satellite and an operational Iridium communications satellite. The fact that this collision took both NASA and the US Military by surprise caused no small amount of consternation in the public, along with several popular conspiracy theories. What the public perhaps did not understand is how crowded space has become. While space situational awareness technology has improved exponentially, it is still quite difficult for human operators to ingest the resulting data efficiently. The USSPACECOM currently tracks over 20,000 objects in orbit, including both operational satellites and debris. The estimated total number of objects in Earth orbit is much higher. With current capabilities, tracking every single possible conjunction with any degree of certainty is virtually impossible. Hallmark, a program currently underway at the DARPA, seeks to solve this problem. The Hallmark architecture consists of a software test bed, space situational awareness software tools, and a cognitive evaluation team. The tools each serve a unique purpose, such as indications and warnings, conjunction analysis, and launch alerts. Each tool operates inside the test bed to give operators a new intuitive approach to ingesting space situational awareness data. The cognitive evaluation team assesses the operators’ reaction to various operational situations constructed with simulated data. This report uses historical collision tracking data to assess the potential future use of the Hallmark tool suite to predict and detect collisions in space. As technology continues to improve, space operators will have more and more data to process in order to make an informed decision. Comparing past collisions to the current state of the art (sometimes overwhelming amounts of data) points to Hallmark’s usefulness in preventing future space collisions.