One avenue for advanced sensing capability is a widespread network of small but capable Space Situational Awareness (SSA) sensors, proliferated widely in the three-dimensional volume extending from the Earth’s surface to the Geosynchronous Earth Orbit (GEO) belt, incorporating multiple different varieties and types of sensors. Due to the freedom of movement afforded by solid surfaces and atmosphere, some of these sensors may have substantial mobility. Accordingly, designing a network for maximum SSA coverage at reasonable cost may entail heterogeneous architectures with common logistics (including modular sensor packages or mobility platforms, which may be flexibly re-assigned).
Smaller mobile sensors leveraging Commercial-Off-The-Shelf (COTS) components and software are appealing for their ability to simplify logistics versus large, monolithic, uniquely-exquisite sensor systems. This paper examines concepts for such sensor systems, and analyzes the costs associated with their use, while assessing the benefits (including reduced gap time, weather resilience, and multiple-sensor coverage) that such an architecture enables. Recommendations for preferred modes and mixes of fielding sensors in a heterogeneous architecture are made, and directions for future related research are suggested.