Costa Rica inaugurated this past Thursday (04/22/2021) a powerful radar capable of detecting objects up to 2 centimeters transiting in low Earth orbit and that are a threat to the safety of spaceships and satellites.
The instrument was developed by Silicon Valley firm LeoLabs and its local partner Ad Astra. It is located in the town of Filadelfia de Carrillo, Guanacaste province, about 200 km northwest of San José. The investment amount was not disclosed.
“Just nine months after the start of work in Costa Rica, it is very gratifying to announce the fully operational status of the most advanced commercial space radar of its kind anywhere on the planet,” said Dan Ceperley, co-founder and CEO of LeoLabs. The country’s President, Carlos Alvarado, participated in the inauguration.
The Costa Rica Space Radar, as it has been designated, has “the unprecedented ability to track objects, including active satellites and orbital debris up to 2 centimeters, which represent the majority of risks” in low Earth orbit ( LEO), the agency reported.
“These risks are of vital importance to the entire client base of LeoLabs, including satellite operators, regulatory and space agencies, insurance companies and the scientific community,” the firm said in a statement.
Former NASA astronaut and LeoLabs co-founder Edward Lu explained that each service they provide, “including collision avoidance or tracking early launches, benefits from the additional data that is flowing from the Costa Rica Space Radar”. The device makes it possible to cover the Earth’s orbit near the equator, taking advantage of the country’s location.
An important contribution to space sustainability and safety of the flights
“In combination with our other radars, the Costa Rica Space Radar expands our ability to provide a real-time map of more objects found in the LEO (…) This is an important contribution to space sustainability and safety of the flights,” added Lu.
“It is exactly the type of project that will facilitate scientific development, empower young people and improve the safety of space flights,” said Costa Rican astronaut Franklin Chang-Díaz, leader of Ad Astra, the other firm participating in the project.