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SPACETRACKNational Space Surveillance Control Center
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(98.) SPACETRACK program represents a worldwide space surveillance network of dedicated, collateral, and contributing electro-optical, passive radio frequency and radar sensors.
Since HQ USAF agreed but said the Secretary of Defense had to decide, ARDC opted to unburden itself of interim operational responsibility by directing its 496L (SPACETRACK) System Program Office to build up within NORAD, as soon as possible, an operational detection and tracking capability.
One day later, on August 19, although Gates informed the JCS that responsibility for SPACETRACK and NAVSPASUR soon would transfer from ARPA to the appropriate military departments, he requested a recommendation on which existing organization should have overall control of the operational Space Detection and Tracking System (SPADATS).
The ARPA-sponsored NRL surveillance program that evolved into NAVSPASUR had begun in June 1958, and ARPA directed ARDC to proceed with the SPACETRACK project, which absorbed Projects Harvest Moon and Shepherd, the latter an alternative to NAVSPASUR for detecting "dark" or passive satellites as they passed over the United States, in December 1958.
The January 1961 DoD-NASA agreement, which provided for DoD disseminating catalog data to NASA, came after the Joint Chiefs of Staff reneged somewhat on the original 1959 support agreement by deciding to no longer share SPACETRACK data with NASA.
After extensive rebuilding, the FPS-85 radar began SPACETRACK operations on January 29, 1969, and almost immediately, it autonomously discovered many new, small objects (usually debris related to launches from years past) for addition to the catalog.
Although deployed to provide early warning of a Soviet nuclear missile attack against North America by detecting missiles in their boost phase, it soon became obvious that DSP also supplied more timely data to SPACETRACK. Instead of the twenty to thirty minutes previously required to determine the purpose of a launch--i.e., long-range missile test or space lift--DSP satellites orbiting at geosynchronous altitude permitted such a determination in as little as one-tenth the time.
"Bill" Craig III, a mathematician whose intimate association with satellite tracking began when he joined the Air Force SPACETRACK team in 1961 and who oversaw many of the significant system improvements during the next 35 years, used the ASW and its SPECTR software to test the High Accuracy Catalog (HAC) concept.
Sturdevant et al., "Sort of Final Draft: Spacetrack on the Eastern Test Range, Fifty Years Ago," Mar.
For a description of the SPACETRACK portion of SPADATS in late 1962, see Ltr, Maj Gen Benjamin J.