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Thursday, July 7

DARPA's new Space Surveillance Telescope will keep our satellites safe from interstellar debris

What's that in the sky? A bird? A plane? Oh, it's just some junk floating around in space, posing major threats to our military's spy satellites. To help keep an eye on it, engineers at DARPA, MIT and the Air Force have unleashed a new $110 million telescope that's been in the works for nine years now. The new Space Surveillance Telescope (SST) is capable of delivering wide-angle views of the Earth's firmament thanks to a curved CCD. This allows for a massive 3.5m aperture and f/1.0 exposure settings, capturing more light in a day that your average scope can in a week. As part of the Air Force's Space Surveillance Network (SSN), the telescope's primary task will be to look out for any microsatellites, meteors or other alien droppings moving at the same speed at which the Earth rotates. The system developed its first images earlier this year and the Air Force may eventually place SSTs all over the world, creating a 360-degree surveillance blanket and going a long way toward keeping our spycraft warm, cozy, and safe from galactic hazards.