Eye in the sky: Rocket blasts off with U.S. ‘neighbourhood watch’ spy satellites

An unmanned Delta 4 rocket blasted off from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida on Monday with a pair of U.S. military satellites designed to keep watch on other countries’ spacecraft. The 63m tall rocket was carrying two satellites for the U.S. Air Force’s recently declassified Geosynchronous Space Situational Awareness Programme, or GSSAP. General William Shelton, head of Air Force Space Command, likened GSSAP to a “neighbourhood watch programme” that will keep tabs on other countries’ satellites.

[It] will bolster our ability to discern when adversaries attempt to avoid detection and to discover capabilities they may have which might be harmful to our critical assets at these higher altitudes.

General William Shelton, head of Air Force Space Command

GSSAP also will track orbital debris, which could pose a threat to operational satellites. Current ground-based radar systems and telescopes can monitor objects that are bigger than about 10 cm in diameter.