Lost in space: Pentagon wants help keeping track of satellites

AP photo

Maintaining custody of objects in crowded orbits is a major challenge.

The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency is seeking automated techniques to identify and track satellites in orbit so they don’t get lost in space, a solicitation reveals.

The military venture wing envisions that the technology will be used by the Joint Space Operations Center, which monitors 22,000 man-made objects in space.

The request for proposals highlights the challenge of maintaining custody of satellites, especially in crowded regions of space and because “active satellites perform periodic but unannounced maneuvers for orbit,” the document says.

The technology to identify satellites that have gone missing but are back on Defense’s radar has fallen short. “Some objects are frequently lost and sometimes serendipitously reacquired without recognition of its previous catalog existence unless manpower-intensive analysis intervenes to uncover the situation for some cases,” the solicitation reads.

The Pentagon wants partners to track individual satellites, create mathematical algorithms to calculate the probability if the objects could go missing, and transition the software to deployment by the Joint Space Operations Center. The solicitation is currently in pre-release and will officially launch May 24.

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