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UK acquires new ground-based sensor to monitor GEO

The two agencies will task the optical telescope, developed by Spaceflux, from the Space Operations Centre at RAF High Wycombe. (Spaceflux)

The UK Space Agency and Space Command have contracted UK company Spaceflux to develop and operate a new space domain awareness (SDA) sensor to monitor objects in geostationary orbit (GEO).

Known as Project Nyx Alpha, the contract, announced by the UK Ministry of Defence (MoD) on 22 November, will involve building a ground-based camera-telescope to gather positional information on UK satellites in order to help prevent collisions and protect critical assets in space, including Skynet.

The telescope will be situated in Cyprus rather than the UK because of its optimum position and elevation for monitoring objects in GEO. Information from the sensor can also be shared with partner organisations and allies, the announcement detailed.

An MoD spokesperson told Janes the contract was valued at GBP500,000 (USD626,210) and the sensor would be delivered by the second quarter (Q2) of 2024.

Spaceflux has developed a global network of automated optical telescopes that track satellites and space debris from low Earth Orbit (LEO) to GEO and Cislunar. Data from this network will be shared with the Space Agency and Space Command to support military and civil missions in space under a separate contract with the company. According to the spokesperson, the two agencies will receive the data imminently.

The company's network comprises 10 satellite tracking ground stations, including in Australia, Chile, and Hawaii, with 15 more locations expected to be added in 2024. The telescopes span up to 70 cm in diameter and are able to detect objects measuring just 2.5 cm in LEO and 10 cm in GEO.

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