Why Do We Need It?
During the last half-century, the modern world has become increasingly dependent on artificial satellites. We now rely on satellites to predict the weather, connect our telephone calls, and beam television signals into our homes. Military satellites play a vital role in supporting troops on the ground by providing precise information about the movements of supplies, vehicles, and enemy troops. The GPS (Global Positioning System) technology that makes this possible is now in widespread commercial use, helping drivers to find their way and smartphone users to access a wealth of local information at the touch of a button.
Damage to any one of these satellites would deliver a costly blow to communication infrastructure, military capabilities, or geolocation technology. Another potential catastrophe is the possibility of damage to the International Space Station (ISS), a vast space based research facility, which cost approximately $100 billion and currently houses six crew members.
Yet despite the crucial role that they play, both satellites and the ISS occupy a very vulnerable position. Outside of the protective cover of the Earth's atmosphere, they are susceptible to collisions with meteorites. In addition to natural objects, the area around the Earth is littered with 'space debris': man-made debris that has been left behind by past space missions. The new surveillance system will track the paths of orbiting objects so that satellites can use their boosters to move out of harm's way.
In addition to maintaining the smooth flow of traffic around the Earth, SBSS will also be on the look out for potential military threats to U.S. satellites. The U.S. military's GPS is vital for the control of their precision attack missiles. If the GPS satellites were taken out of action by a surprise attack, that could make it much more difficult for the U.S. to co-ordinate a precision retaliation. This new system has been commissioned by the U.S. Department of Defense to help it protect the space based assets of the country and its allies.