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Russia To Develop Space Surveillance Satellite To Monitor Space Debris As Part Of Milky Way SSA Network

A visualization of the space debris problem around planet Earth. Image courtesy of the European Space Agency.

The Russian state space corporation Roscosmos is to develop a low-Earth orbit (LEO) space surveillance satellite that will help monitor space debris and should be launched by 2027, according to a senior Roscosmos official in remarks to the TASS news agency on 28 May 2020.

The satellite will be part of a space situational awareness network called Milky Way that will comprise of 65 ground-based optical telescopes by 2025, space surveillance payloads on future Sfera-class Earth observation satellites, an optical sensor to be placed in the Russian part of the International Space Station (ISS), as well as the planned surveillance satellite.

“Consequently, for the purpose of achieving the maximum possible efficiency of detecting and monitoring space objects, the system will integrate the space segment that will include a grouping of special-purpose near-Earth space monitoring satellites. The first such satellite making part of the system’s space segment is expected to be launched in 2027,” Alexander Bloshenko, Roscosmos Executive Director for Long-Term Programmes and Science, told TASS.

Roscosmos also plans to apply Artificial Intelligence (AI) – or machine learning – to its Milky Way space situational awareness (SSA) programme that will help it identify potential debris and collision hazards in an accurate and timely manner.

Bloshenko told TASS that these AI applications should increase Russian data processing of space activities in LEO fivefold to one million per day and reduce errors in calculating conjunction events by an order of magnitude.

At present Russia’s SSA network monitors over 22,000 objects in Earth orbit, and like all other space agencies Roscosmos is concerned about the increase of space debris and the growing risk of collisions between operational satellites and space debris.

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