Shelton Unveils “Neighborhood Watch” Satellites

The Air Force will launch two previously undisclosed space-surveillance satellites into orbit later this year that represent a “significant improvement” in monitoring activities in near-geosynchronous orbit where the United States has some of its most valuable space assets, said Gen. William Shelton, head of Air Force Space Command. Shelton lifted the veil on the Geosynchronous Space Situational Awareness Program, or GSSAP, satellites during his Feb. 21 speech at AFA’s Air Warfare Symposium in Orlando, Fla. The satellites will carry electro-optical sensors and will function in a “neighborhood watch” role, detecting threats to US space assets like debris or a spacecraft that a potential adversary is trying to hide on orbit that could harm US satellites, said Shelton. The two spacecraft will “drift just above and just below the GEO belt,” he said. They will complement the Space Based Space Surveillance satellite that’s been on orbit since 2010 and US ground-based space-monitoring sensors, said Shelton. Orbital Sciences is the prime contractor. A United Launch Alliance Delta IV booster will carry the satellites into orbit from Cape Canaveral AFS, Fla. Two GSSAP replacement satellites will follow in the 2016 timeframe, said Shelton. (GSSAP fact sheet)