Daytime Satellite Tracking Telescope Invented, as Orbit Gets Crowded

A crowded orbit is a dangerous orbit.
Utku Kucukduner

Due to the ever-increasing number of satellite us humans put up above the sky, keeping track of the whereabouts of operational satellites, non-operational satellites, and broken down debris has become a necessity. A telescope developed by research and development company Numerica does just that, even in broad daylight.

The company describes their telescope as "the first fully-functional, low-cost telescope system that can observe Earth-orbiting satellites in broad daylight at altitudes of more than 22,000 miles (36,000 kilometers)."

The company has manufactured and tested two prototypes in Colorado, the U.S., and Australia. Reportedly, the devices were successful at detecting low-Earth orbit and geosynchronous orbit (LEO and GEO). The company is setting up more of these telescopes at different locations in their plan of a broader Numerica Telescope Network.


Jeff Shaddix, the principal investigator of daytime tracking told in the press release that the "... technology is enabled by high-speed shortwave infrared cameras, customized optics, and advanced algorithms," what's more impressive is the data their cameras supply and algorithms sort through.

Each minute 15 GB of data is relayed from the cameras and image processing algorithms fuse the data to reduce the noise to near theoretical limits. Thus dim signals from satellites normally undetectable by means of standard optical signals are picked up.

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Another important note that Numerica emphasizes is the elimination of the need for expensive cryogenic cooling equipment, which are necessary components for some other systems currently in development. We should also note that the European Space Agency (ESA) also has a similar prototype system that utilizes lasers to keep track of space debris during the daytime.

The system built by Numerica received a U.S. patent on 11 August, it will be presented at the Advanced Maui Optical and Space Surveillance Technologies conference which will be held online this September.

See the video below to get a better idea of what the telescope sees.


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