ESA deploys first orbital debris test radar in Spain

Oct 15, 2012
Credit: ESA

(Phys.org)—A new radar designed to test methods for finding orbital debris that can be hazardous to space navigation has been installed in Spain. The radar will be used to develop future debris warning services, helping boost safety for European satellite operators.

Following an 18-month design and , the radar was installed near Santorcaz, about 30 km from Madrid, and the first series of acceptance and validation tests are scheduled to begin in mid-November.

ESA's Space Situational Awareness (SSA) programme office and Spain's Indra Espacio S.A. signed a €4.7-million contract to build the radar in 2010.

Early debris detection is crucial to help warn of collision risks and enable avoidance to be made.

Indra Espacio is the prime industrial partner and is responsible for the design and development of the radar transmitter. The development of the radar receiver was subcontracted to the Fraunhofer Institute for Physics and Radar Techniques (FHR), Wachtberg, Germany.

Significant milestone in ESA's SSA programme

"Installation of the test radar at Santorcaz is a significant milestone in ESA's SSA programme," says Nicolas Bobrinsky, Head of ESA's Space Situational Awareness Preparatory Programme.

"Fielding a so-called 'breadboard' radar means that Spanish and German industry are developing world-class technical expertise in the of hazardous space debris."

'Breadboard' means that the radar is easily reconfigurable depending on test results, helping engineers optimise its performance over time.

Test radar uses 'monostatic' design to detect debris

The radar deployed in Spain by ESA makes use of the 'monostatic' design, in which the transmitter and receiver are co-located within just a few hundred meters.

A second contract to develop a 'bistatic' design radar, in which the transmitter and receiver are separated by several hundreds of kilometres, was signed with a separate industrial grouping in September 2012.

"This monostatic radar will be used to demonstrate and validate radar technologies for surveillance in low-altitude orbits," says Gian Maria Pinna, Ground Segment Manager in ESA's SSA office.

"Although the capabilities of the test radar are limited, its design will allow us to achieve considerable understanding of the technical problems inherent in detection with radar techniques, a know-how that ESA is increasingly building-up via the SSA Programme."

In the future, the two test radars, bistatic and monostatic, will be joined by an initial set of optical telescopes for the surveillance of higher altitude orbits, and the entire system will be incrementally improved to develop precursor warning services for satellite operators.

Explore further: Amazing raw Cassini images from this week

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

European space scout

Apr 01, 2011

The growing quantity of space debris is a serious threat to satellites and other spacecraft, which risk being damaged or even destroyed. A new European space surveillance system is being developed to ward ...

UK technology scans the skies for space hazards

Mar 07, 2011

UK space surveillance technology is being used in ESA's first co-ordinated space tracking campaign – part of a larger programme to provide up to date and accurate information on space hazards in Earth's orbit. These ...

Lockheed Martin submits bid for Space Fence

Nov 19, 2010

Lockheed Martin submitted its proposal today for the next phase of Space Fence, a program that will revamp the way the U.S. Air Force identifies and tracks objects in space.

Radar prototype begins tracking down space junk

Mar 09, 2012

Several times a year, the International Space Station needs to perform Debris Avoidance Maneuvers to dodge the ever-growing amount of space junk hurtling around in Earth orbit. Additionally, our increased ...

Space debris: Europe to set up monitor

Apr 02, 2009

The European Space Agency (ESA) hopes to start monitoring orbital debris within the next few years, an official said Thursday at the close of the largest-ever conference on a worsening space peril.

Vendee Globe route seen from above

Dec 15, 2008

(PhysOrg.com) -- Wind and wave data from ESA's Envisat satellite radar are being used to observe meteorological conditions in the track of the Vendee Globe solo round-the-world yacht race.

Recommended for you

SpaceX rocket explodes during test flight

1 hour ago

A SpaceX rocket exploded in midair during a test flight, though no one was injured, as the company seeks to develop a spacecraft that can return to Earth and be used again.

Amazing raw Cassini images from this week

19 hours ago

When Saturn is at its closest to Earth, it's three-quarters of a billion miles away—or more than a billion kilometers! That makes these raw images from the ringed planet all the more remarkable.

Europe launches two navigation satellites

19 hours ago

Two satellites for Europe's rival to GPS were lifted into space on Friday to boost the Galileo constellation to six orbiters of a final 30, the European Space Agency (ESA) said.

SpaceX gets 10-year tax exemption for Texas site

20 hours ago

Cameron County commissioners have agreed to waive 10 years of county taxes as part of an agreement bringing the world's first commercial site for orbital rocket launches to the southernmost tip of Texas.

Voyager map details Neptune's strange moon Triton

21 hours ago

(Phys.org) —NASA's Voyager 2 spacecraft gave humanity its first close-up look at Neptune and its moon Triton in the summer of 1989. Like an old film, Voyager's historic footage of Triton has been "restored" ...

User comments : 0