By Graham Warwick
In a bid to boost the ability to track orbital debris that could endanger satellites, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (Darpa) is seeking methods for the uncued detection of objects in low-inclined low Earth orbit (LILO).
The LILO project is part of Darpa’s OrbitOutlook (O2) program to bolster the U.S. Space Surveillance Network (SSN) with new sensor, database and validation capabilities. The SSN is tasked with observing and tracking space objects.
Low-inclined LEO objects are defined as those orbiting at an altitude of less than 1,000 km and an orbital inclination of 0±20-deg. (prograde, or orbiting with the rotation of the Earth) or 180±20-deg. (retrograde), Darpa says in a new solicitation.
The agency is seeking proposals for new or modified sensors that can be deployed within 12 months of contract award. They are to be capable of detecting objects 10 cm or larger at 1,000 km, without prior knowledge of their location or trajectory, with an astrometric precision of better than 6 arcsec. and a timing accuracy of less than 10 millisec.
The LILO system is required to provide at least three independent detections of an obit within a 10-min. window. Darpa says solutions may include passive optical or radio-frequency sensors or active radar, but says it is not interested in systems that use active illumination.
A goal of the LILO project is to demonstrate the ability to integrate new or modified sensors rapidly to supplement the SSN. The schedule calls for performers to deliver observation data to Darpa within 12 months of contract award, and ideally within six months.
The 12-month first phase is planned to begin in the third quarter of 2014 and include a technical demonstration period of up to three months. Darpa will have to option to buy data collected during a follow-on 12-month operational phase.