Turkish University Leverages AI to Monitor Space Activity and ‘Spy Satellites’

In an ambitious move toward enhancing national security and space capabilities, the Turkish Aeronautical Association University (THKU) is spearheading a project utilizing artificial intelligence (AI) to track spacecraft and objects, including satellites, as they traverse the skies above Türkiye. This innovative approach aims not only to monitor space traffic but also to detect espionage activities, marking a significant advancement in the country’s space surveillance efforts.

Professor Tahsin Çağri Şişman, vice-rector of THK University, shared insights into the endeavor during an interview with Anadolu Agency. The project, grounded in the application of deep learning techniques, focuses on the orbit determination of satellites, aligning with one of the National Space Program’s objectives: the “Observation and Tracking of Space Objects from Ground.”

The project initiates a two-fold approach that encompasses both the development of an AI application capable of identifying different satellites and space objects in orbit and the engagement in comprehensive space awareness studies. With an integration of orbital mechanics and cutting-edge deep learning technology, the team at THK University is on the verge of revolutionizing how space activity is monitored over Türkiye.

Professor Şişman highlighted the collaborative nature of the project, expressing a keen interest in working alongside other significant players within the country’s space sector. The initial study, launched two years ago, aims to leverage domestically developed AI applications to accurately determine the position and speed of space objects as they pass over the country. These trials, expected to commence by the end of the year, will facilitate real-time acquisition of data concerning the trajectory, speed, and position of these objects through amateur radio bands.

The pursuit of knowledge in this domain extends beyond mere observation. By transforming two-dimensional data collected on the equatorial plane into a three-dimensional format, the AI application will reach new levels of sophistication and accuracy. Moreover, the project explores the phenomenon of “Doppler shift” in radio signals emitted by satellites, a crucial factor in orbit determination. Such research endeavors are conducted at the THK University Ground Station, further emphasizing the project’s innovative edge.

Professor Şişman emphasized the national security implications of their work, revealing the challenges in accessing orbit data for espionage satellites through conventional channels like “space-track.org.” This obstacle underscores the value and necessity of indigenous projects that empower Türkiye to independently track and analyze the orbits of spy satellites. By understanding the transit schedules of these spy satellites over Türkiye, the nation can effectively mask sensitive activities from foreign surveillance, thereby bolstering its security infrastructure.

This groundbreaking project, melding artificial intelligence with space surveillance, not only elevates Türkiye’s standing in the global space community but also fortifies its defense mechanisms against espionage. As THK University continues to pioneer in the realm of AI and space tracking, the future looks promising for Türkiye’s aspirations in space exploration and national security.

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