Costa Rica has a new giant space radar that can track orbital debris as small as two centimeters. It was built by LeoLabs, which provides commercial tracking services for objects in low Earth orbit. It declared the devices fully operational less than a year after construction began. LeoLabs CEO Dan Seperli said it is “the most advanced commercial space radar.” The device can pinpoint the location of objects the size of a golf ball, even if they are moving at 30,000 kilometers per hour.
The radar can track both active satellites and space debris, which makes up the vast majority of man-made objects found in orbit. They will be followed by LeoLabs clients – satellite operators, defense, space, and regulatory agencies, insurance, and scientific institutions.
The researchers explained that space debris is increasingly seen in Earth’s orbit, and its amount has increased dramatically over the past few decades. This trend will accelerate as private companies launch more and more massive satellite constellations. Moreover, debris in orbit poses a huge threat to the ISS and future manned flights. Ed Lu, co-founder of the company, explains that they can now take on the role of tracking small space debris that other devices cannot see.
The company added that it completely covers low orbit with four radars. The lab plans to build more radars around the world to ensure it can continue to operate in low orbit, which will become even more congested in the future.