Space Force studies requirements for cislunar space domain awareness

WAILEA, Hawaii – The Space Force expects to know by next spring what capabilities it will need to conduct space domain awareness activities in cislunar space.

Speaking at the Advanced Maui Optical and Space Surveillance Technologies (AMOS) conference here Sept. 28, Col. Marc Brock, commander of Space Delta 2, the unit responsible for space domain awareness for Space Force, said a study is underway by the 19th Space Defense Squadron (SDS) into what is needed to monitor activities beyond geostationary orbit, called xGEO by the Space Force, and toward the moon.

This study, he said, will examine the requirements for creating an “operational capability” for cislunar spatial domain awareness, or xGEO. This includes the training, technologies and centers necessary to carry out the mission. He said the report should be ready by next April or May.

“After that, the time frame to have a viable capability depends on the resources we have as a service,” he said. Some existing ground-based resources already exist to carry out this mission, he said, but said new space systems will likely be required.

“We need a space-based capability to really monitor xGEO or cislunar so I can’t give you a time frame,” he said.

Technology demonstration efforts are underway, such as the Air Force Research Laboratory’s Cislunar Highway Patrol System, or CHPS. This is a mission slated for launch in 2025 to operate in cislunar space, testing technologies to track and identify objects there.

Brock referenced those efforts, but said an operational system based on something like CHPS could take much longer to implement. “To really have a viable long-term operational capability, it will take willpower and resources,” he said. “I can’t answer at a specific time other than we will be willing, hopefully, in the next few years to use available resources to accomplish this mission.”

Cislunar space domain awareness work is one of the 19th SDS’s missions, which he described as a “sandbox of innovation” for Space Delta 2. The squadron also took over assessment work conjunctions which was previously performed by the 18th Space Defense Squadron. , a move he said was a “precursor” to transferring civilian space traffic management responsibilities to the Commerce Department.

He said work with Commerce on this transition is going well, but did not elaborate on that work. “We are 110% committed to helping DOC establish its function,” he said, saying there was no challenge in this effort. “They have a lot of work to do to get funding and figure out exactly when they want to deploy their capabilities, but we’re side by side with DOC to help them as much as we can.”