Observation Facilities for Space Debris and Near Earth Objects

Space Debris and Near Earth Objects Observation Facilities in Okayama Prefecture

* Kamisaibara Spaceguard Center (KSGC) :Kamisaibara Village, Okayama Prefecture
* Bisei Spaceguard Center (BSGC) :Bisei Town, Okayama Prefecture

Japan Space Forum (JSF) is using subsidies from the Ministry of Edcation, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology (MEXT) to construct facilities in Okayama Prefecture for observing space debris and Near Earth Objects (NEOs). These facilities will be built over a six-year period from fiscal 1998 to fiscal 2003 and will consist of a radar facility (Kamisaibara Spaceguard Center) in the northern part of the prefecture and an optical observation facility (Bisei Spaceguard Center) in the southwest.

Kamisaibara Spaceguard Center
Bisei Spaceguard Center

Necessity of Facilities for Observing Space Debris and NEOs
Various countries around the world actively involved in space development and utilization activities have put more than 5,000 spacecraft such as artificial satellites into orbit. Some of these spacecraft are subsequently retrieved on the ground while others burn out on reentering the Earth's atmosphere. However, many spacecraft whose mission was completed, and also parts of rockets that were used to launch spacecraft, continue to orbit the Earth as space debris. The amount of such space debris increases each time a new spacecraft is launched. In addition, the quantity of space debris is quickly increasing through the pieces of debris colliding with each other. Consequently, space debris is now a serious threat to future manned space activities.
Observation of space debris is thus a very important step in the development of technology for its removal, for avoiding collisions between space debris and operating spacecraft, and for reducing the impact at the time of collision.
The radar facility presently under construction at Kamisaibara Village is mainly intended to detect space debris at low altitude where manned space activities take place. The optical observation facility at Bisei Town, however, is designed for observing or searching for space debris near the Geostationary Earth Orbit (GEO) occupied by the many satellites presently in use and Geostationary Transfer Orbit (GTO). It will also survey NEOs.

Overview of the Facilities for Observing Space Debris and NEOs

Kamisaibara Spaceguard Center; An active phased array radar will be used to observe space debris in Low Earth Orbit (LEO) up to 1,000 Km above the Earth, in order to determine the orbit of the debris. This will be the first attempted ever to determine the orbital elements of space debris from a single observation center.
Bisei Spaceguard Center; A large 1-meter-diameter optical telescope and 50-cm-diameter tracking telescopes will be used to observe space debris near the GEO and GTO of 36,000 Km, and to observe NEOs approaching the Earth. Specially designed for the specific purpose of observing space debris and NEOs, this facility is the first of its kind in the world.
After the facilities are completed, JSF will survey space debris and NEOs, and provide the processed data to various users such as the National Space Development Agency of Japan (NASDA) and the National Aerospace Laboratory of Japan. JSF is also considering offering this data via the Internet, for example, to enable it to be used by general researchers as well.