LeoLabs Adds Sixth Space Radar Site In Australia

LeoLabs’ Western Australian site will complement the Kiwi Space Radar now operational in New Zealand.
Credit: LeoLabs

Space situational awareness startup LeoLabs is to locate its next space radar in Western Australia to increase its capacity to track satellites and debris in low Earth orbit.

When completed in 2022, the West Australia Space Radar will be the U.S. company’s sixth radar site.

The Australian location will provide good coverage of launch corridors from East Asia, and improve space coverage in the Southern Hemisphere, LeoLabs cofounder and CEO Dan Ceperley says. The company already operates the Kiwi Space Radar site in New Zealand.

The Western Australian location will be equipped with the same dual S-band phased-array radars as is existing sites in New Zealand and Costa Rica and another under construction in the Azores and expected to be operational early in 2022. LeoLabs also has earlier radar sites in Alaska and Texas.

Each phased array is able to steer a pencil beam within the radar’s fixed field of view, allowing LeoLabs to update information on the satellites and orbital debris it is tracking. 

In Western Australian, as in New Zealand, the fields of view of the two radars at each site are parallel and aligned to facilitate acquisition and initial orbit determination for newly launched satellites. Objects pass though one radar’s field of view and then, a few minutes later, the other.

LeoLabs has been providing launch acquisition and orbit determination services for multi-satellite launches of SpaceX’s Starlink constellation and Transporter ride-share missions.

Adding a sixth radar site in Western Australia will improve LeoLabs’ ability to detect new orbital debris, down to 2 cm in size, as well as to provide customers with timely alerts and updates on satellite breakups or deployments of sub-spacecraft by other satellites.

LeoLabs also is establishing a team in Australia that will work with government agencies and regulators as well as the country’s commercial startups to provide space domain awareness services. The team also will be involved in software development and part of the operations team managing the global fleet of radars. “Space domain awareness never sleeps,” Ceperley says.

Graham Warwick

Graham leads Aviation Week's coverage of technology, focusing on engineering and technology across the aerospace industry, with a special focus on identifying technologies of strategic importance to aviation, aerospace and defense.