Demonstrator radar to detect space debris passes validation testing

The ESA has validated tests of a radar system for detecting and monitoring man-made space debris.
By Richard Tomkins  |  Updated April 1, 2014 at 10:48 AM
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A demonstrator radar system to detect and monitor man-made space debris has passed European Space Agency validation tests.

The tests on the system developed by Indra of Spain, focused on observing and detecting known objects for which orbital information is already available to verify the data collected by the demonstrator.

Various radar parameter configurations were also tested.

“The performance shown by this radar prototype has surpassed the ESA's expectations and objectives for this phase of the project,” Indra said. “On the other hand, throughout the tests, it was also verified that the modular and scalable architecture of this system is the most appropriate for building the future surveillance system.”

During the tests, the system detected the undocking of the CYGNUS supply ship from the International Space Station, demonstrating the radar’s ability to differentiate two objects of very different sizes located relatively close to each other in the same orbit.

The system also detected and differentiated the ESA's three SWARM satellites right after their launch when their orbital separation was minimal.

Indra said other tests included the re-entry into the Earth's atmosphere of a satellite and detection of the tumbling satellite, which is currently unable to maneuver.

The demonstrator is part of a first phase in a program to establish the basis for building the future European system that will monitor the waste from other missions. It’s estimated that there are 700,000 objects orbiting Earth in an uncontrolled manner, posing a serious risk to future space missions and operational satellites.

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