Case study

Relocating DARPA's space surveillance telescope

Frazer-Nash applied its extensive systems engineering expertise to support the relocation of a ground-breaking space surveillance telescope.

Relocating DARPA's space surveillance telescope

Operated by the US’s Defense Advanced Projects Research Agency (DARPA), the Space Surveillance Telescope programme aims to enable ground-based, broad-area search, detection, and tracking of faint objects in deep space for purposes such as space mission assurance and asteroid detection.

The telescope first became functional in 2011. In 2013, the US and Australian governments agreed to relocate the telescope from White Sands Missile Range in New Mexico to Harold E Holt Naval Communication Station in Western Australia. Australia offers a uniquely beneficial vantage point for operational testing and demonstration of the telescope’s enhanced algorithms and camera.

In partnership with the United States Space Force, the Australia Defence Force (ADF) committed to support the relocation and operationalisation of this capability into a purpose-built observatory, incorporating mission and support facilities.

The challenge

The Australian government’s Wide Area and Space Surveillance Systems Program Office (WASS SPO), required a comprehensive system engineering response to provide the assurance that the space surveillance capability could be successfully relocated, function correctly and be safe to put into use.

The solution

Frazer-Nash applied its extensive knowledge and experience in systems engineering and ADF technical assurance frameworks to support the relocation. Working closely with US counterparts and to a challenging timeframe, we developed and implemented the system engineering program.

This included the oversight and engineering management for the new capability, helping to achieve Design Acceptance of the Australian-managed facilities before the start of the US’s test and evaluation program.

After the move in 2023, the Space Surveillance Telescope programme will be owned by the United States Air Force, but operated and maintained by Australia. It will be a dedicated sensor in the US Space Surveillance Network (SSN).

This commission demonstrates how our systems engineering expertise turns our client’s desire for new capabilities, into operational realities – a vital role in the burgeoning space sector.

Damien Farrell, Space Sector Business Manager