With the booming space industry in the past 50 years, human have created hundreds of millions of space debris to the outer space around the Earth. With large increasing number of new planned spacecraft, and large number of space debris associated with future space activities, conjunction risk of orbiting spacecraft is expected to be dangerously high, and it poses severe challenges to the security of space assets.
Currently, APSCO Member States, not including China, have launched more than 35 satellites and already have a clear launch plan for more than 20 satellites in a near future. APSCO has foreseen the demand for on-orbit space assets security will become increasingly urgent. The Ground-Based Space Object Observation Network, therefore, has been initiated as a priority strategic network. The wide distribution area of our Member States in the Asia-Pacific region provides a unique advantage to the network of our observation instruments.
Asia-Pacific Ground-Based Space Object Observation System (APOSOS) Project
The feasibility study of APOSOS Project was approved as a Basic Activity by the Fourth Council Meeting in 2011. Its primary aim is to develop a linked space observation network based on optical trackers both existing ones in APSCO Member States and newly developed facilities. It initially targets space objects in Low Earth Orbit (LEO), and the network would be for peaceful purposes of establishing the infrastructure for collision avoidance and early warning services for space assets of our Member States.
After a successful on-site pilot observation conducted in Thailand, Indonesia and Iran during the initial phase of the project in 2012, the Seventh Council Meeting of APSCO approved the implementation of three telescopes permanently in three Member States in 2013. Two telescopes were installed in Pakistan and Peru in 2015. In parallel, the APOSOS Data Centre was established in Beijing, being hosted by the National Astronomical Observatories of China (NAOC). The third telescope was successfully installed in Iran in December, 2016. With the well established network of 150-mm-diameter telescopes, objects with brightness magnitude up to +12, at 50 ms exposure time can principally be detected. By conducting joint observation campaign, it is possible to form a long, continuous tracking trajectory of the targeted space object, which is necessary for precise orbit determination task. So far, there are 206 objects have been tracked and recorded into our space objects catalogue, including 90% of spacecrafts belong to APSCO Member States.
In order to enhance the scale and capability of the APOSOS Network with the geographic advantages of APSCO fully taken, Phase II of the Project has been proposed in 2017. In this extended phase, lager telescopes, 300-500 mm in diameter, with combination of wide-field surveying telescopes and precise tracking telescopes are planned to be installed in all Member States. The complete APOSOS Network would be able to detect objects as small as 10 cm in diameter, in LEO. Also the system would be substantially enhanced for tracking of objects orbiting in higher altitude, including in Medium-Earth Orbit (MEO), Geo-Stationary Orbit (GEO), as well as Near-Earth Objects (NEO). With the distributed data processing center in all Member States, it aims to provide high-quality, precision orbital data of space objects; to establish a data application service network for data sharing, space hazard prevention and avoidance; to establish an international cooperation network for technical exchange and training in the field of outer space, and to establish an astronomical research and popular science network to provide platform for the popularization of science to APSCO Member States.