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).