The 17th annual Advanced Maui Optical and Space Surveillance Technologies (AMOS) Conference hosted a record-breaking attendance of more than 680 participants Sept. 20-23 at the Wailea Marriott Resort and Spa. AMOS, a program of the Maui Economic Development Board (MEDB), is the premier technical conference in the nation devoted to space surveillance.
This year’s program presented more than 100 technical papers and featured speakers, poster sessions, exhibits and short courses in the fields of telescope optics, adaptive imaging and international exchange of knowledge within the Space Situational Awareness (SSA) community. Those attending AMOS included a cross section of military, contractor, and academic participants in the field of SSA. Eighteen countries were represented, making this year’s AMOS conference a genuine international event.
Technical short courses on Space Debris, Satellite Conjunction Assessment, and others, kicked off the conference on Sept. 20. “The threat of on-orbit collisions has become an increasing concern to the space-faring community,” said Lauri K. Newman, Robotic Mission Conjunction Assessment Risk Analysis Manager at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center, who taught a short course on the subject at the AMOS Conference.
Also on opening day, Mike Gruss, senior staff writer for SpaceNews, moderated discussions with keynote speakers Major General David D. Thompson, Vice Commander of Air Force Space Command, and Mr. Douglas L. Loverro, Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Space Policy.
“We must keep space safe and be prepared to operate and defend space assets for us and our allies to operate efficiently,” said Gen. Thompson. “We have to be part of the global community in space to improve our understanding of the domain.”
During a conference banquet on September 21, several Maui residents who have contributed to SSA on the island were honored. Maui Mayor Alan Arakawa presented Lieutenant Colonel Andrew Emery, commander of Air Force Research Laboratory’s Detachment 15 in Kihei, with a proclamation, naming Sept. 21 as AMOS Day.
“I am so proud to accept this honor on behalf of the site, of all the people who came before us, those here now and for those yet to come,” said Emery. “The late Senator [Daniel] Inouye’s vision for the site and this proclamation are focal points for technology and innovation on the island. They provide opportunities for residents to take part in the jobs needed to support Maui’s scientific industry, in which MEDB’s pivotal role is beneficial to the whole community.”
Also on Sept. 21, the space traffic management (STM) forum, moderated by Brian Weeden, Technical Advisor for Secure World Foundation, discussed the growing international and commercial interest in space–noting that commercial companies have announced plans to conduct space activities that challenge existing licensing and regulatory frameworks.
“It is time for the US military to let go of the spaceflight safety mission, and allow the private sector, academia, and international partners to create its own public, high-accuracy catalog of space objects, providing safety of spaceflight services to satellite operators,” Weeden said. “Letting go of these tasks would enable the US military to focus on the national security aspects of SSA while defending against potential hostile threats to its satellites.”
During the SSA Policy Forum on Sept. 22, international SSA operators exchanged strategic policy tools for strengthening international partnerships among governments and satellite operators. In 2013, the US, the UK, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand signed the Combined Space Operations agreement intended to strengthen and enhance resilience and optimize resources. In addition, there are also broader discussions of government-to-government sharing of SSA data to improve national security and safety of spaceflight.
“We share a common international challenge in understanding the evolving space domain and the threats and risks contained within it, and I believe that we all seek to ensure and preserve the domain for future generations,” said Wg. Cdr. Rayna Owens, Commander, Royal Air Force Fylingdales. “Maui provides a stunning backdrop for what is, in my experience, a great opportunity for the international dialogue that is so vital to space operations.”
The final keynote was given on Sept. 23 by Jordi Puig-Suari, Professor, CubeSat Program, Cal Poly State University and CEO of Tyvak Nano-Satellite Systems, Inc. He discussed SSA in relation to small satellites; over the last several years, “smallsats” have transitioned from lab experiments to viable space platforms, Puig-Suari said. Thousands of small satellites are currently planned to be deployed into a wide range of orbits. An increasing number of them are being built as 10-centimeter cubes, called “cubesats,” which are fully functional satellites.
Smallsats represent a unique problem in that they can be more difficult to track and identify, particularly when deployed in large numbers at once, and they often lack maneuvering capabilities, Puig-Suari said. Operators of larger satellites have expressed concerns that large numbers of non-maneuverable smallsats could create unmanageable traffic problems in space.
“We need to change our attitude about cubesats,” said Bhavya Lal, a research staff member at the Institute of Defense Analyses’ Science and Technology Policy Institute. “They are a very important part of our satellite population because they can carry out important missions in spite of being small.”
A hundred Maui middle school students also participated in hands-on STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) activities during the Space Exploration Student Session at AMOS. They were introduced to space technologies via exhibits and hands-on projects and had the opportunity to meet industry professionals and learn valuable lessons in STEM subjects.
“I enjoyed learning and talking to the experts at the AMOS Conference,” said Czerena Martinne Boyle, Maui Waena Intermediate School 8th grader. “My favorite booth was SatWatch, a virtual reality exploration of satellite orbits around the Earth. I got to explore SSA data in an immersive experience of orbits of a wide variety of satellites. These satellites make a big impact on the community and in the world for national security, internet, banking, telephones, television, navigation, scientific exploration and more.”
Photo of a scientist holding a cubesat: University College London Faculty of Mathematical & Physical Sciences