|Organization||U.S. Air Force|
|Location||near Cloudcroft, New Mexico|
|Altitude||2,751 meters (9,026 ft)|
Cloudcroft Observatory, also known as the Cloudcroft Electro-Optical Research Facility, was an astronomical observatory located in the Lincoln National Forest near Cloudcroft, New Mexico, approximately 23 kilometers (14 mi) northeast of Alamagordo. It was owned by the U.S. Air Force (USAF) and initially operated by the Air Force Avionics Laboratory (AFAL). The facility was built as part of a project to develop new techniques for detecting satellites with electronic imaging devices, which were eventually to replace Project Space Track's Baker-Nunn photographic system.
The site near Cloudcroft was selected by AFAL in 1961 after several months of site characterization, and construction began in 1962. First light of the Electro-Optical Surveillance Telescope (EOST) was achieved in 1964. The device was a 1.22 m (48 in) Newtonian telescope on a three-axis mount. The azimuth-elevation-azimuth configuration simplified tracking and allowed for good imaging of objects at zenith. Aiming at poorly constrained targets was assisted by two small Naval sight guns placed in domes on opposite corners of the building. The first automated detection system, the FSR-2, was located at the site in the late 1960s in a separate building. It only operated for one year due to technical and financial reasons. AFAL continued Space Object Identification (SOI) research at Cloudcroft until 1975. At that time the facility was transferred to USAF Space and Missile Systems Organization (SAMSO).
In the late 1970s the facility came under control of the Air Force Geophysical Laboratory, which contracted with Sacramento Peak Observatory to perform various research. Guest researchers also had the opportunity to use the facility. The facility was deactivated in 1982, and in the late 1980s the telescope was transferred to the Jet Propulsion Laboratory's Table Mountain Observatory.
In 1995, NASA began using the facility, which was renamed as NASA Orbital Debris Observatory. A 3.0 m (120 in) liquid mirror telescope was built in the main dome, and operated from 1996 to 2001.
The facility has since been disposed of by the government, and is now owned by a private astronomical organization, the Tzec Maun Foundation. As of April 2013[update], a 1.0 m (39 in) reflecting telescope was being tested in the main dome.
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