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/SpaDe is located in Collepardo (Frosinone, Lazio Italian Region) at an altitude of 576 meters.
The SpaDe (Space Debris) observatory was the first in Italy dedicated to observe and monitor satellites and space debris, and has the distinctive feature of being removable. This peculiarity permits to move in a few hours the entire observatory in order to make optical observations from different sites. It also permits to improve the orbit determination and allows to make campaign in particular periods, when climatic conditions are bad. A portable dome was designed and built by the GAUSS group, with the involvement of students. This dome can hold all the observatory systems and it is realized to satisfy the condition of mobility.
A software for the automatic detection and identification of Earth orbiting objects has been developed and tested.
The first Italian Observatory dedicated to Space Debris (SpaDe) has been fully operational for over seven years. It is currently under maintenance to upgrade the optical instruments.
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 observatory Italian-Russian (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 are located in Collepardo and are managed by GAUSS Srl.
The Observatory’s coordinates are:
- Longitude 13° 22′ 9.84″ E
- Latitude 41° 45′ 51.4794″ N
- Quote 576 m
The equipment included in the Observatory:
- Telescope BAKER-SCHMIDT: 300 mm, f/2.8
- Mount Paramount ME: Tracking speed 5 deg/s in RA and DEC
- CCD camera FLI PROLINE 16803: 4096×4096 pixel, pixel size: 9 μm (18 μm binning 2x), Field of view (FOV) [degrees] = 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