Space force

US Space Force uses situational awareness software from Aust

Space situational awareness is an ever-changing target.

Software from Sydney-based Saber Astronautics, which describes itself as a “global space operations provider”, is spreading rapidly in the US military. He just won another $540,000 to meet the growing list of information that the new Space Force Operations Command keeps discovering it needs in its “Space Cockpit”.

The number of users of the software in the United States doubled in August, with hundreds of United States Space Force operators using it to help understand where objects such as satellites are in space and , especially, where they are heading.

Saber CEO Dr. Jason Held said that Space Cockpit, especially the fields of view: “is going a bit viral”.

Saber runs Australia’s Responsive Space Operations Center on Adelaide’s North Terrace Lot 14. He is also involved in NASA’s Moon to Mars project and won a contract with Australia’s Defense Innovation Center focused on improving nations’ space domain awareness.

Spatial situational awareness requires a mountain of data

The problem it solves is data.

There are so many.

And it all comes in different formats, at different times, with different degrees of reliability.

And we’re not just talking about the amount of data going up and down.

For example, we rarely know the exact location of a given satellite.

It can get an occasional radar fix. But, unless it openly broadcasts its position in the same way as land planes and navigation, its orbit is a matter of guesswork.

“That’s why when something is expected to travel within 1,000 kilometers of another space object, one of them will have to move out of the way,” said the Saber Astronautics spokeswoman, Carmen Truong. “It’s a bit complicated as the space becomes more crowded.”

“That’s why every piece of data available on this satellite has to be collected, processed and refined. It then needs to be mixed with other ingredients, such as local space weather, before it can be made into something useful.

“You have defense data. You have data from private networks. You have data from government agencies. And they’re not collated to the extent that we’d prefer,” Truong says.

“We need to be able to put it all together so someone can get a really nice, high-level view without having to dive deep into the code and the algorithms behind it all.”

Machine learning is about constantly observing what is happening and comparing it to what was predicted. It is also used to translate raw data from a multitude of different formats and sources into one information-rich stream.

But that, says Truong, presents its own problems.

The reliability of each piece of data must be assessed. And the impact of each margin of error must be tracked as it influences information sorting processes.

“Sometimes you get data that’s not in the charts and you’re like, ‘Oh, well, maybe that’s a mistake,'” she says. “But it’s usually not so obvious.”

This is an issue Saber is focusing on.

“We don’t know yet how the final solution will turn out,” Truong says. “But we think verification is an untapped resource.”

A practical aspect may include creating a formalized network of on-call astronomers and tracking providers.

That’s why they’ve made their “pet project” – the Rapid Terrestrial and Astronomical Observing Toolkit (TAROT) – freely available to the public.

Want to see the latest Space X constellation scatter across the skies? Want to follow the latest threat to the International Space Station? How about checking out where auroras are active or how solar flares affect the ionosphere? Saber Astronautics’ TAROT Space Awareness System is available to the general public. Photo: Astronautic Saber

If a satellite suddenly goes dark, the public can point their radars, telescopes and cameras at its probability bubble to see precisely where it is. This can allow for a more detailed review to determine what went wrong.

“We’d like a really nice collaboration where we work with a diverse group of people to give us a better view of the space we’re working in,” she says.