Air Force Research Laboratory's Directed Energy Directorate
The Air Force Research Laboratory, Directed Energy Directorate's, operating location on Maui has a two-fold mission. First, it conducts the research and development mission on the Maui Space Surveillance System (MSSS) at the Maui Space Surveillance Complex (MSSC). Second, it oversees operation of the Maui High Performance Computing Center (MHPCC). AFRL's research and development mission on Maui was formally called AMOS; the use of the term AMOS has been widespread throughout the technical community for over 30 years and is still used today at many technical conferences.
Maui Space Surveillance System (MSSS)
The accessibility and capability of the Maui Space Surveillance System provides an unequaled opportunity to the scientific community by combining state-of-the-art space object tracking with a facility supporting research and development.
The Maui Space Surveillance System, also known as AMOS by the scientific community, is routinely involved in numerous observing programs and has the capability of projecting lasers into the atmosphere, which is unusual at astronomical sites.
Ideal Viewing Environment
Virtually year-round viewing conditions are possible due to the relatively stable climate. Dry, clean air and minimal scattered light from surface sources enable visibility exceeding 150 km. Based on double star observations, seeing is typically on the order of one arc second.
Situated at the crest of the dormant volcano Haleakala, the observatory stands at an altitude of 3058 meters, latitude 20.7 degrees N, and longitude 156.3 degrees W.
Spanning over 30 years, the evolution of the Maui Space Surveillance System has demonstrated several stages in the history of space object tracking telescopes. Currently, through its primary mission for Air Force Space Command, the Maui Space Surveillance System combines large-aperture tracking optics with visible and infrared sensors to collect data on near Earth and deep-space objects.
The 3.67-meter telescope, known as the Advanced Electro-Optical System (AEOS), owned by the Department of Defense, is the nation’s largest optical telescope designed for tracking satellites. The 75-ton AEOS telescope points and tracks very accurately, yet is fast enough to track both low-Earth satellites and missiles. AEOS can be used simultaneously by many groups or institutions because its light can be channeled through a series of mirrors to seven independent coudé rooms below the telescope. Employing sophisticated sensors that include an adaptive optics system, radiometer, spectrograph, and long-wave infrared imager, the telescope tracks man-made objects in deep space and performs space object identification data collection.
AEOS is equipped with an adaptive optics system, the heart of which is a 941-actuator deformable mirror that can change its shape to remove the atmosphere’s distorting effects. Scientists are expected to get near diffraction-limited images of space objects.
Other equipment at MSSS includes a 1.6-meter telescope, two 1.2-meter telescopes on a common mount, a 0.8-meter beam director/tracker, and a 0.6-meter laser beam director. The telescopes accommodate a wide variety of sensor systems, including imaging systems, conventional and contrast mode photometers, infrared radiometers, low light level video systems, and acquisition telescopes.
In addition to these assets, the site has a machine shop, optics laboratories, and electronics laboratories. A Remote Maui Experimental site at sea level houses additional optics and electronics laboratories.
The AFRL has a long history of partnering with various military and civilian organizations in diverse fields. Visiting experiment programs are generally divided into two main classes, measurement programs and development programs. Measurement programs have little or no direct on-site involvement and are usually characterized by scientific measurements. Development programs are scientific investigations that may require modifications or additions to the facilities and direct personnel involvement on the island.
Typical visiting experiments:
+ complex space missions
+ astronomical observations
+ laser development
+ observation campaigns
+ detection and tracking of orbital debris
+ observation of missile experiments out of both Vandenberg AFB, Calif., and the Pacific Missile Range Facility, Barking Sands, Kauai, Hawaii
Management and Operation
The MSSS is managed by the Air Force Research Laboratory's Directed Energy Directorate. The MSSS operates 24 hours a day, seven days a week, responding rapidly to perform its vital space mission. Scientists, engineers and technical staff continue to design experiments, build sensor systems, perform measurements, and analyze data for the increasingly complex tasks required for advanced space research and space object identification.
Administrative and Technical Assistance
The technical and administrative facility is located at Premier Place in the Maui Research and Technology Park in Kihei, Maui. The Maui High Performance Computing Center (MHPCC) is also located in the Maui Research and Technology Park.
Please note: There are no public tours conducted at the Maui Space Surveillance System.