Space Debris Test Radar Deployed By ESA
October 16, 2012

Test Radar Will Help Detect Orbital Debris

Lee Rannals for - Your Universe Online

A new radar designed to test methods for finding space debris has been deployed by the European Space Agency (ESA).

ESA said it has installed the new test radar in Spain so it can be used to develop future debris warning services.

The radar was deployed near Santorcaz, about 18 miles from Madrid. Its first series of acceptance and validation tests will begin in mid-November.

ESA´s Space Situational Awareness (SSA) program office and Spain's Indra Espacio S.A. signed a $6 million contract to build the radar in 2010.

“Installation of the test radar at Santorcaz is a significant milestone in ESA´s SSA program,” said Nicolas Bobrinsky, Head of ESA´s Space Situational Awareness Preparatory Program. “Fielding a so-called ℠breadboard´ radar means that Spanish and German industry are developing world-class technical expertise in the radar detection of hazardous space debris.”

Having an early detection debris radar is crucial in warning satellite operators of collision risks, and enabling avoidance maneuvers to be made.

The breadboard radar uses a "monostatic" design, in which the transmitter and receiver are co-located within just a few hundred feet.

“This monostatic radar will be used to demonstrate and validate radar technologies for space debris surveillance in low-altitude orbits,” said 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 orbital debris detection with radar techniques, a know-how that ESA is increasingly building-up via the SSA Program,” Pinna added.

Two test radars will be used in the future, joined up with an initial set of optical telescopes for the surveillance of higher altitude orbits, and the entire system will be improved to develop precursor warning services for satellite operators.

Image 2 (below): 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 development phase, the radar was installed near Santorcaz, about 30 km from Madrid, with the first series of acceptance and validation tests are scheduled to begin in mid-November 2012. Credits: ESA