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ESA preps space junk radar

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The European Space Agency has announced €4 million in funding to build a demonstrator of a radar system to detect space junk before it puts operational equipment at risk.

France’s national aerospace research body ONERA is to work with five commercial partners in France, Spain and Switzerland to develop a demonstrator of the new radar, with work beginning immediately.

The new radar demonstrator “will help test and validate techniques for observing orbital debris”, according to Nicolas Bobrinsky, who heads ESA’s Space Situational Awareness (SSA) Preparatory Programme.

The bistatic radar will have an emitter installed at a disused airport near Crucey-Villages west of Paris, with the receiver at Palaiseau, south of Paris. The ESA is already working with Indra Espacio in Spain on a monostatic radar (the emitter and receiver are in the same place).

Since 2009, the Space Situational Awareness program has awarded contracts worth more than €30 million. It’s due to begin putting systems into full operation between now and 2019.

Its ambitious program is to create a system that would ultimately cover “man-made space objects, re-entries, in-orbit explosions and release events, in-orbit collisions, disruption of missions and satellite-based service capabilities, potential impacts of Near Earth Objects, and the effects of space weather phenomena on space- and ground-based infrastructure.” ®

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