LeoLabs announced plans to build two phased-array radars which will be located in Western Australia on October 19, making it the startup’s worldwide space-tracking network’s sixth location. The LeoLabs facility in Western Australia was chosen in part because of its longitude, which allows for a view of launch routes from Asia. “Our entire purpose is to drive openness in space,” said Dan Ceperley, co-founder and CEO of LeoLabs. “When more satellites are launched, we intend to be capable of capturing them.” This site will assist in doing so.”
Ceperley said the Western Australian station will also assist LeoLabs in observing satellites and space debris passing through the Southern Hemisphere. Historically, the Southern Hemisphere has had fewer space-tracking radars as well as optical telescopes than the Northern Hemisphere. That’s one of the purposes the U.S. Air Force approved prime vendor Lockheed Martin to assess a Western Australia facility for the second Space Fence, which is a ground-centered S-band radar to monitor objects in orbit. The original Space Fence, which is situated on Kwajalein Island in Republic of the Marshall Islands, became operational in 2020, but the US Space Force has yet to receive congressional funding to build a second Space Fence.
Western Australia is the second Southern Hemisphere location for LeoLabs. The business uses two S-band radars which are in New Zealand to identify objects as tiny as Two centimeters in diameter in the low Earth orbit. LeoLabs also maintains radars in Texas, Alaska, and Costa Rica. In June, LeoLabs announced that two space-tracking radars would be installed in the Azores archipelago.
When the LeoLabs company was created in 2016, the goal was to build a system of radars at six locations across the world. LeoLabs plans to “keep charging forward” as launch activity picks up, according to Ceperley. “We believe that having such additional radar locations will be quite beneficial.” Curtis Hernandez, who works as the government relations director at LeoLabs, said at the Value of Space Summit on October 19 that the company aims to deploy radars in 24 locations across the world.
LeoLabs boosts the frequency of its observations of the individual satellites and fragments of orbital debris with each new radar. The higher frequency results in more precise data and increases the firm’s capacity to assess probable collisions.
“The West Australian Space Radar also contributes more frequent updates on crucial events in LEO, such as collisions, breakups, maneuvers, fresh launches, and re-entries,” said Terry van Haren, who works as the managing director in charge of LeoLabs Australia and ex-Royal Australian Air Force air as well as space attaché in Washington.
In Australia, LeoLabs is looking for new staff. “Terry is putting together a team to use these radars, software, and other technology to make Australia into the space domain awareness superpower,” Ceperley explained. Around 17,000 items in low Earth orbit are now being tracked by LeoLabs. The company plans to monitor 250,000 objects with its growing space radar network.