New Telescope for Space-Monitoring Quiver

The DARPA-developed Space Surveillance Telescope in New Mexico will shift to Air Force ownership “in about the next month or so,” Gen. William Shelton, Air Force Space Command head, said Tuesday at AFA’s Air & Space Conference in National Harbor, Md. Based on the preliminary results he’s seen from SST’s technical demonstration, Shelton said he “would love to put three of these things around the planet.” The telescope is designed to detect very dim objects in deep space. Its “unique curved focal plane” enables it to rapidly scan large areas, said Shelton. However, the capability itself “is not unique,” per se, he told reporters during his media session following his speech. Rather, he referred to SST as “GEODSS on steroids,” referencing the Ground-Based Electro-Optical Deep Space Surveillance System telescopes that the Air Force already utilizes, which have a narrower field of view. Shelton acknowledged that in the austere budget climate, it might not be easy to establish two more SST sites. “I am not optimistic that I can afford two of these any time soon, but there is the potential that others could help,” he said, citing possible partnerships.