Tracking the Dark Side on a shoe-string budget

M. Langbroek*, Cees Bassa, Ted Molczan

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Chapter in Book/Conference proceedings/Edited volumeConference contributionScientificpeer-review

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Meaningful SSA work on earth-orbiting satellites can be done on a shoe-string budget, with modest, off the shelf equipment. This has been shown by an informal group of self-funded Independent Space Observers (“ISO’s”) organized around the Seesat-L mailing list. Literally from their backyards, they track some 200 “classified” objects – objects that are not in the public orbital catalogues – using very simple equipment: from binoculars and stopwatch on the ‘old skool’ end, to DSLR’s or sensitive CCTV or CMOS/CCD cameras with fast photographic lenses and GPS time control on the sophisticated end. In this paper, a brief outline is provided on the techniques and equipment used by Seesat-L members and an example is given on how a new 'classified' launch is located and tracked, often within hours of launch. It is discussed why the whole concept of keeping the orbits of certain space assets “classified” is problematic: not only is it unrealistic, but it also goes against core notions of transparency and accountability regarding activities in space.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationProceedings of the 2nd NEO and Debris Detection Conference, Darmstadt, Germany, 24-26 January 2023
EditorsT. Flohrer, R. Moissl, F. Schmitz
Number of pages6
Publication statusPublished - 2023
Event 2nd NEO and Debris Detection Conference - Darmstadt, Germany
Duration: 23 Jan 202326 Jan 2023
Conference number: 2


Conference 2nd NEO and Debris Detection Conference


  • CubeSat
  • Space Situational Awareness
  • Demonstrator
  • Tracking


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