FORT COLLINS, Colo. (CBS4) – Over the summer, President Donald Trump signed an executive order directing the Defense Department to establish a sixth branch of the U.S. military in space. Such a “space force” would be involved in the kind of work that’s already being done at companies like Numerica in northern Colorado.
At an unassuming office in Fort Collins, Numerica’s small team of mathematicians monitor Earth’s orbital space and use advanced technology to track potentially dangerous space junk.
“Nothing in space can happen that we don’t know about,” said Jeff Aristoff, Numerica’s program director.
Numerica tracks everything from satellites to spacecraft and trash. They say there are more than 20,000 pieces of floating debris that range from the size of school buses to baseballs in Earth’s orbit.
“We’re taking pictures of objects from thousands of kilometers away and all you have is a dot, a nonresolved image on the screen. You don’t see what it’s doing. You don’t know how big it is,” Aristoff said.
Numerica has such a close eye on debris floating in space that if an accident did happen and threatened astronauts or satellites they could warn NASA quickly and potentially save lives.
The company uses a network of telescopes located around the globe. They can quickly process data and then share it with their customers who have investments floating in space. That gives them time to adjust their orbit before disaster strikes.
“It needs to be real time because these things are changing. They may be maneuvering. They may be colliding, and all this has to be captured.”
A U.S. space force would monitor and patrol space around Earth and would likely benefit from the Numerica team’s research.
“Space is becoming more contested and more congested — more competitive. And we need to make sure that we maintain superiority in space,” Aristoff said.