Kelso, T.S., "Challenges Identifying Newly Launched Objects," presented at 68th International Astronautical Congress, Adelaide, Australia, 2017 Sep 29.
Whenever satellites are launched, one of the first challenges is to find and track all the objects associated with
that launch. This process must be performed as expeditiously as possible, to support early-orbit operations and safety
of flight (conjunction assessment). That tracking task normally falls to the Joint Space Operations Center (JSpOC),
which must rely on radar or optical observations from the Space Surveillance Network and those observations do not
include positive identification of the objects.
Large satellite operators often operate their own independent tracking networks, which can generate orbits with
positive identification. Many small satellite operators—particularly cubesat operators—do not have an independent
means of positively tracking their satellites. And even if they do, as the number of payloads per launch increases, the
challenge of associating operator orbits with JSpOC orbits becomes more complicated—delaying the positive identification
of all objects.
While those operators with independent tracking are able to perform early orbit operations, those that do not have
independent tracking are at risk of losing their satellites, because they may not be able to locate them to perform vital
early orbit tasks in time. In addition, since most conjunction assessment is performed using some JSpOC data, it may
be impossible to screen for conjunctions (if the data has not been released), impossible to know which satellites are
affected by a particular close approach (if the orbital data is available but the objects are unidentified), or simply create
conflicting assessments of the true situation.
This paper discusses a simple technique which quickly assesses all available operator orbital data against the
latest TLE data available from JSpOC. Results from this technique for the Indian PSLV-C37 launch with 104 payloads
are compared to the tracking and identification performance from the PSLV-C34 launch with 20 payloads