The Intelligence Advanced Research Projects Activity selected four vendors to develop technologies and new approaches for tracking small debris objects in space.
A-Tech, Advanced Space, SRI International, and West Virginia University Research Corporation won four-year contracts of undisclosed value for the Space Debris Identification and Tracking (SINTRA) program.
The four vendors were selected through a competitive Broad Agency Announcement.
IARPA, an agency under the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, said that the four companies will develop technologies and methods to detect, track and characterize miniature space debris.
“Resulting technologies hold the potential to protect manned spacecraft and other valuable space assets from these compact threats, which are difficult to detect and track and can cause significant damage,” IARPA said.
The agency said the goal of the SINTRA program is to fill gaps in current space debris-monitoring systems, which currently only track and monitor debris objects larger than four inches across.
IARPA also is seeking ways to improve existing small debris-tracking capabilities such as ground-based radar, tracking satellites and optical sensors.
“Discovering new ways to understand the millions of man-made debris objects orbiting the Earth, especially since they are ever-increasing in number, has never been more critical to everyday life,” said Alexis Truitt, manager of the SINTRA program.
IARPA said there are currently over 100 million debris objects greater than 1 millimeter (about one-third of an inch) in size orbiting the Earth. The Department of Defense only tracks and monitors debris greater than 10 centimeters in size using the U.S. Space Surveillance Network.