LeoLabs unveils automated Collision Avoidance service

by

SAN FRANCISCO – Silicon Valley space mapping startup LeoLabs unveiled a service May 13 to help commercial and government satellite operators avoid collisions with debris and other satellites in low Earth orbit.

LeoLabs operates three ground-based phased array radars to track satellites and debris in low Earth orbit. Drawing on the radar data, LeoLabs created a suite of cloud-based services, called LeoLabs Collision Avoidance, to alert customers to conjunctions and help them assess the risk of collisions.

When LeoLabs detects “a risky situation,” it automatically schedules time to make additional observations “so you’ve got increased confidence in your decision either to maneuver or not to maneuver,” Dan Ceperley, LeoLabs CEO and co-founder, told SpaceNews.

LeoLabs executives declined to comment on the price of the new service, which is designed for customization.

“No two constellations are the same,” Ceperley said. “Some want to do continuous collision assessment, some want to do it hourly and some want to do it daily.”

Although LeoLabs Collision Avoidance was designed prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, its remote features could come in handy when many people are working from home.

“When a risky situation comes up, you probably have your satellite operators in the operation center and nobody else,” Ceperley said. A company’s orbital dynamics experts, for example, may be at home but they can still “bring their expertise to bear,” he added.

LeoLabs Collision Avoidance also promises to evaluate the merit of various maneuvers within seconds, Ceperley said. That feature will allow companies to “play through various scenarios and come up with the best solution,” he added.

Low Earth orbit, home to the International Space Station and Earth observation constellations, is increasingly dynamic thanks to the popularity of cubesats, small satellites and new communications constellations. LeoLabs plans to continue to expand its radar network to track small debris in low Earth orbit.

“Over the next 24 months, as LeoLabs adds additional high fidelity phased array radars to its global sensor network, LeoLabs Collision Avoidance will expand collision alerts to include previously uncatalogued small debris,” the company said in a May 13 news release.