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In Space, there are no Secrets. Tracking the Dark Side on a shoe-string budget

Marco Langbroek1
Delft Technical University faculty of Aerospace Engineering1

Document details

Publishing year2023 PublisherESA Space Debris Office Publishing typeConference Name of conference2nd NEO and Debris Detection Conference
Pagesn/a Volume
T. Flohrer, R. Moissl, F. Schmitz


Meaningful SSA work on earth-orbiting satellites can be done on a shoe-string budget, with modest, off the shelf equipment. This has been shown by an informal group of self-funded Independent Space Observers (“ISO’s”) organized around the Seesat-L mailing list. Literally from their backyards, they track some 200 “classified” objects – objects that are not in the public orbital catalogues – using very simple equipment: from binoculars and stopwatch on the ‘old skool’ end, to DSLR’s or sensitive CCTV or CMOS/CCD cameras with fast photographic lenses and GPS time control on the sophisticated end. In this paper, a brief outline is provided on the techniques and equipment used by Seesat-L members and an example is given on how a new 'classified' launch is located and tracked, often within hours of launch. It is discussed why the whole concept of keeping the orbits of certain space assets “classified” is problematic: not only is it unrealistic, but it also goes against core notions of transparency and accountability regarding activities in space.