Space Debris Tracking Technology Is LeoLabs’ Mission
Low-Earth orbit is an elite contender for huge commercial growth, but it is also a space where the risk of explosions happening from debris impact is a concern for businesses targeting the technology opportunity. That is the issue LeoLabs focuses on, a startup spun out of SRI International to find, map, and help dodge collisions with debris floating in low-Earth orbit (LEO).
LeoLabs is announcing $4 million in investment from SRI International, Airbus Ventures, Horizons Ventures, and is adding the Midland Space Radar facility in Midland, Texas to its organization of ground-based radar monitoring facilities, which help it track the objects it’s mapping. The problem LeoLabs is hoping to solve is helping the growing number of ventures working with cubsats and smallsat networks, as well as emerging ventures looking to put people into low-Earth orbit for short tourist flights.
Evading collisions in LEO is a serious concern because it is already a crowded region of space. Collisions in LEO stand to amplify the problem. Objects crashing into one another results in more debris and more dangerous navigation of LEO space overall. There are already some choices for keeping clear of other objects in LEO. The United States Air Force maintains a public catalog that will alert those registered to use it about potential crashes. The company believes more advanced tools are needed.
LeoLabs’ solution has unique abilities including accuracy to within 100 meters, along with verification mechanisms: data offered up on a predefined schedule, tracking of each piece of debris and object in LEO multiple times per day, the ability to track up to 250,000 new objects that aren’t tracked by public monitoring systems today, and an API so that customers can use the info with their own systems via tight integration. CEO Dan Ceperley stated, “We provide raw data. Plus, we provide services built on top of this data to address specific customer needs, such as avoiding collisions. Finally, we are heavily investing in the data services platform that will enable third-parties to innovate on top of the data.”