Remember that scene in Gravity when Sandra Bullock goes spinning off into space after her shuttle is struck by debris? Space junk is a very real problem astronauts face, and @LeoLabs_Space is working to track it.
WASHINGTON, D.C. — The New Zealand Space Agency is moving quickly to develop a comprehensive strategy reflecting its priorities including sustainability, agility and collaboration, said agency head Peter Crabtree.
The Kiwi Space Radar — built by California-based LeoLabs in Naseby in the past year — was opened yesterday in front of an international audience that heard New Zealand’s space sector was growing rapidly in size and value.
Satellite collisions should become less common thanks to a radar station that has been built on a farm near Naseby in Central Otago to track hundreds of thousands of pieces of space junk.
An international space tracking facility built in Naseby is a “next generation” world first, those behind the project say. The LeoLabs Kiwi Space Radar would be the first in the world to track space debris smaller than 10cm, LeoLabs chief executive Dan Ceperley said.
Four giant halfpipes in the central Otago township of Naseby could help keep vital mapping satellites up in the air. They form a new Kiwi Space Radar, which will track the daily movements of thousands of satellites and pieces of space debris.
“The Kiwi Space Radar raises the bar on addressing the threat of collisions that have never before been tracked in LEO,” said Michael Nicolls, co-founder, and LeoLabs Chief Technology Officer.
For the first time, space companies can track tiny bits of dangerous space junk that orbit the planet and menace satellites.
Ask anyone in the space business and they’ll tell you that orbital debris is a serious problem that will only get worse, but dealing with it is as much an opportunity as it is a problem. Leo Labs is building a global network of radar arrays that can track smaller debris than we can today, and with better precision — and the first of its new installations is about to start operations in New Zealand.
The Silicon Valley catchphrase “Move fast and break things” takes on a whole different meaning in space. The millions of pieces of debris that litter the Earth’s orbit zip around at speeds of up to 17,500 miles per hour, according to NASA, which means even a pebble-size object can cause catastrophic damage to a satellite in a head-on collision.