ESA Picks Indra Espacio for Space-tracking Demo Radar

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BREMEN, Germany — Indra Espacio of Spain will lead development of a phased-array radar to demonstrate tracking of orbital debris and satellites passing over European territory under a contract with the European Space Agency (ESA) announced July 20.

The contract, valued at 4.7 million euros ($6 million), will include a radar transmitter to be developed by Indra and a receiver to be provided by the Fraunhofer Institute for High-Frequency Physics and Radar Techniques of Wachtberg, Germany. Indra also will scout possible sites in Europe to locate the radar.

The contract was announced here during the 38th Scientific Assembly of the Committee on Space Research (Cospar).

The radar will be delivered in November 2011 or December 2011, in time to be in operation in early 2012 and prove its value ahead of a meeting later that year of ESA governments to set its next multiyear space-spending plan.

ESA’s Space Situational Awareness program, budgeted at about 50 million euros over three years, is intended to demonstrate techniques for monitoring space weather and near-Earth objects and for tracking space debris and active satellites.

Program backers hope that the three years of demonstration projects will persuade Europe’s governments to begin the long process of establishing a European space situational awareness capacity that, at least over European territory, approaches what the U.S. Space Surveillance Network now provides globally with ground-based telescopes and radars.