In 2006 the GAUSS Group of the University of Roma “La Sapienza” was chosen by the Italian Space Agency (ASI) to design and shape the first Italian optical observatory to perform space debris’ observation. The University/ASI Observatory GAUSS was named “SpaDe” (Space Debris) and it was located in Collepardo (Frosinone, Lazio Italian region) at an altitude of 576 meters.
The SpaDe observatory was the first in Italy dedicated to observe and monitor satellites and space debris, and had the distinctive feature of being removable. This peculiarity permitted to move in a few hours the entire observatory in order to make optical observations from different sites. It also permitted to improve the orbit determination and allowed to make campaign in particular periods, when climatic conditions were bad. A portable dome was designed and built by the GAUSS group, with the involvement of students. This dome could hold all the observatory systems and it was realized to satisfy the condition of mobility.
A software for the automatic detection and identification of Earth orbiting objects had been developed and tested.
The first Italian Observatory dedicated to Space Debris (SpaDe) has been fully operational for about nine years, until 2015.
In 2009 GAUSS began a collaboration with the Russian delegation, thanks to the results obtained by the SpaDe observatory during IADC joint coordinated observations. As the result of this cooperation the first Italian-Russian Observatory (FIRST, First Italian Russian Space Telescope debris) was designed and built. The FIRST is dedicated to the observation of space debris.
FIRST and SPADE observatories, managed by GAUSS Srl,were located in Collepardo and, at present, they are not operational anymore on that site.
- Longitude 13° 22′ 9.84″ E
- Latitude 41° 45′ 51.4794″ N
- Quote 576 m
The equipment included in the Observatory:
- Telescope, Baker-Schmidt design, custom made : Focal length 300 mm, f/2.8
- Mount Paramount ME: Tracking speed 5 deg/s in RA and DEC
- CCD camera FLI PROLINE 16803: resolution 4096×4096 pixel, pixel size: 9 μm (18 μm with 2x binning), Field of view (FOV) = 2.6° x 2.6°, pixel scale [arcs/pixel] = 2.2″ (4.4″ binning 2x)
A number of observation campaigns have been carried out thanks to the observatory activities:
- Geo International coordinated surveillance
- High AMR-Like objects
- LEO calibration campaign (International Space Station)
- COSMOS2251/IRIDIUM33 impact related debris surveillance