Videographers from the Air Force recently visited surveillance facilities located on top of a defunct volcano in Hawaii’s Maui.
The facilities, part of the 21st Space Wing’s Ground-based Electro-Optical Deep-Space Surveillance unit, don’t monitor stars so much as they do satellites (ostensibly of the spy variety).
The GEODSS network, operated by the 21st SW, can track objects the size of a basketball more than 20,000 miles in space, is made up of nine telescopes at three sites: One in Socorro, New Mexico, at the White Sands Missile Range; another on Diego Garcia, a small atoll in the Indian Ocean; and the one Rashid is responsible for on Maui. Together, these sites provide nearly complete coverage of the Earth’s geosynchronous orbital belt and deliver nearly 80 per cent of all geosynchronous observations.
“Currently it’s estimated that approximately 500,000 objects orbit around Earth, and we only have the ability to track about 23,000 of them,” said Capt. Shahn Rashid, commander of the unit. “Since 1982, this [Ground-based Electro-Optical Deep-Space Surveillance] site has been key in tracking orbiting objects to make sure they’re where they’re supposed to be and that they don’t crash into each other.”
Whatever the purpose, this timelapse is nothing short of stunning:
Here’s Rashid explaining what it’s like to work at the Space Wing:
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