Although the U.S. Air Force shares data with allies from what is arguably the world's most sophisticated ground- and space-based surveillance network, Graves and TIRA give France and Germany the capability to maintain their own catalog of orbiting objects
“Graves is able to identify something of interest and TIRA then tells us what it might be,” Muller says.
Part of the French air force's Systeme de Commandement et de Conduite des Operations Aeriennesair (SCCOA)—which combines all the service's information and communications systems under a single procurement program—Graves is slated for a mid-life upgrade in 2015 that Muller says will improve its capacity for conducting broad sweeps of the skies over Europe.
As a supplement to Graves, France uses three air force Satam tracking antennas, as well as a shipborne radar on the French navy's Monge missile-tracking vessel, to allow precise extrapolation of the object trajectories, including those reentering Earth's orbit.
France is also investing in new capabilities, including a low-level technology demonstrator dubbed Oscegeane that uses spectroscopy to characterize objects in geostationary orbit. The project combines a telescope located in Nice with control and data analysis conducted by Muller's team in Paris. In the works for the past three years, he says it has reached a technology readiness level of 3-4.
Another demonstration project, Fedome (Federation de donnees issues de capteurs defense, scientifiques ou cooperants), began last fall to improve air force space-weather forecasting.
The CDAOA collects space solar weather data from a variety of sources for use in civil and military operations planning, including air force missions over Mali in support of Operation Serval. Fedome, which will be operational in November, aims to provide the air force with its own space-weather forecasting ability using a unique set of instruments to detect and analyze solar activity at radio wavelengths and providing alerts to avoid disruptions to GPS accuracy, AWACS recognized air picture and long-distance communications.
“With weapons such as the A2SM [L'armement air-sol modulaire], we need good precision,” Muller says, referring to the French air force INS/GPS/infrared-guided air-to-ground missile.
Muller says by fall 2014 the air force plans to co-locate control of all its space surveillance assets with the French air operations center (CNOR) in Lyon, France, where his staff of 20 disparate operators will grow to 30 at the consolidated space tracking center, dubbed Cosmos (Centre Operationnel de Surveillance Militaire des Objets Spatiaux). Ultimately, Muller says, France seeks to develop a Space Information System (SIS) that will provide an overall picture of the aerospace environment.