Raumfahrt - AFRL’s Big Ambitions For Lunar Patrol Satellites


"We are interested in technologies to support wide area search, narrow field tracking, and autonomous space domain awareness," says CHPS program manager Capt. David Buehler.


NASA’s planned Gateway station would operate in cislunar space.

CLARIFICATION: AFRL has clarified that the orbits under consideration are the Earth-Moon Lagrange points not the Earth-Sun Lagrange points.

WASHINGTON:  The Air Force Research Lab (AFRL) has revealed first details about its groundbreaking effort to build an experimental satellite for monitoring lunar-faring spacecraft — including its possible Lagrange point orbit and plans for a kick off industry day this coming summer.

The Cislunar Highway Patrol Satellite (CHPS) would be the first space domain awareness (SDA) to focus on cislunar space, the vast region between the Earth’s outer orbit and the Moon’s. It could also be the US military’s first attempt to operate a satellite in the special orbital domains known as Lagrange Points, where a spacecraft can, in essence, ‘hover’ in a relatively fixed spot.

“We are evaluating multiple orbits for potential utility in conducting the space domain awareness mission. Most of the orbits of interest lie within the Lagrange 1 or 2 families,” program manager Capt. David Buehler, tells me in an email.

CLARIFICATION BEGINS. These orbital positions, where “the gravitational pull of two large masses precisely equals the centripetal force required for a small object to move with them,” are named after the Italian-French mathematician Josephy-Louis Lagrange who first wrote on this so-called ‘Three Body Problem’ in 1772, NASA’s website explains. There are five such points in any orbital three-body problem.

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