Concept: US startup Leolabs provides commercial radar tracking services for objects in low earth orbit (LEO). It protects satellites and spacecraft from debris collisions by providing real-time conjunction alerts on secondary objects. The platform uses SRI International’s Advanced Modular, Incoherent Scatter Radar (AMISR) technology for monitoring space traffic.

Nature of Disruption: Leolabs combined AMISR technology with a cloud-based SaaS to convert radar data into actionable information for preventing orbital collisions. The AMISR systems use wide-bandwidth radar pulses and coherent processing to detect objects as small as 5-10 cm in size through LEO. It provides a range resolution of over 20 meters for LEO targets. Its tracking and monitoring service leverages the LeoLabs global radar network for offering precision tracking and curated orbit data products for 1U size satellites and below. The platform provides automatic event-matching and data reporting by integrating third-party CDMs (Conjunction Data Message) into LeoLabs Collision Avoidance solution. It offers web dashboards that provide features including satellite location in real-time, access to current and historical data, state vector comparisons, embeddable 2D/3D visualizations, and predicted next passes.

Outlook: As per NASA reports, there are approximately 23,000 pieces of debris larger than a softball orbiting the Earth. They travel at speeds up to 17,500 mph, fast enough for a relatively small piece of orbital debris to damage a satellite or a spacecraft. NASA also estimates that an active satellite in LEO will collide with a piece of debris larger than 1 centimeter every five to six years, resulting in a significant financial loss in the event of a collision. Leolabs leverages AMISR technology to prevent such collisions by providing actionable alerts. The solution claims to make it easier and less costly for researchers during the Earth’s ionosphere and upper atmosphere analysis and measurement.

This article was originally published in