Space Debris Tracking Will Be Getting 5 Times Better This Year

LeoLabs’ will soon activate a new radar station in New Zealand. It will be the first to track debris as small as 2 centimeters in low Earth orbit. Current, systems track at 10 centimeters or larger.

Low Earth Orbit will soon have tens of thousands of satellites providing new generations services, ranging from broadband internet to Earth imaging. There are 250,000 dangerous objects which are untracked today. The new facility will increase the accuracy of object tracking and will detect 95% of the risk that has never been tracked will be addressed.

The LEO-Labs New Zealand radar will be starting within weeks. The opening was estimated as mid-2019 about 8 months ago.

LeoLabs’ improved phased array radar was developed at Silicon Valley’s SRI International.

There are estimated to be over 128 million pieces of debris smaller than 1 cm (0.39 in) as of January 2019. There are approximately 900,000 pieces from one to ten cm. The current count of large debris (defined as 10 cm across or larger) is 34,000. Over 98 percent of the 1,900 tons of debris in low Earth orbit (as of 2002) was accounted for by about 1,500 objects, each over 100 kg (220 lb). Total mass is mostly constant despite addition of many smaller objects, since they reenter the atmosphere sooner. Using a 2008 figure of 8,500 known items, it is estimated at 5,500 t (12,100,000 lb).

8 thoughts on “Space Debris Tracking Will Be Getting 5 Times Better This Year”

  1. Technician: Okay turn it on . . . is it on? Oh, yeah. Wow, that’s incredible! Now we can really see what’s out there and–OMIGOD, OMIGOD, IT’S COMING RIGHT AT US!

  2. I’m hoping that once exoindustrialization gets rolling, there will be a lot of money in salvaging dead satellites for materials, and perhaps a bounty from the insurance companies. Pieces too small to be worth chasing will make good target practice for orbital laser stations.

  3. Shouldn’t the debris monitoring radar be closer to the equator so it can catch even the low orbital inclination stuff?

  4. Wrong link.
    You mention bad science fiction, but then linked to excellent science fiction, so I presume you cut and pasted the wrong URL.

    Unless you are meaning that wikipedia itself is science fiction, which is a feasible position I suppose…

  5. Notable here is what appears to be a private organization doing a space fence radar at below 3cm. US Air Force currently maintains a space fence radar (recently replaced by a new facility using a pressurized tent over a phased array?) accurate to 3cm or less, that publicly publishes data. Most manned spacecraft feature an armoring scheme designed for 1cm or less objects. So, if we could track 1cm objects, there’s a measure of increased safety due to maneuverability of manned spacecraft.

    But first we need that kind of monitoring capability online. There was the recent incident of the unlicensed SpaceBee nanosats that were edge-on 3cm that the FCC rightly had concerns about due to detectability with current space fence radars. Apparently those silicon valley spacebro’s that launched the unlicensed sats apparently will try again, after adding some kind of radar reflector to their design.

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