LeoLabs selects New Zealand to expand its space radar network
(29 September 2018 - LeoLabs) LeoLabs, a leading commercial provider of low Earth orbit (LEO) mapping and Space Situational Awareness (SSA) services, today announced a broad-based agreement to build its next space radar in New Zealand.
This establishes New Zealand as the site for the first radar of its kind in the Southern Hemisphere. As the third radar in LeoLabs’ network, the New Zealand radar will be the first to track debris as small as 2cm in low Earth orbit. The company also announced an agreement with New Zealand’s Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment (MBIE) to promote the creation of applications and services that enhance New Zealand’s contribution to the space industry. In addition, LeoLabs is pleased to announce that the New Zealand Venture Investment Fund (NZVIF) participated in LeoLabs’ recently completed Series A round of financing.
Low Earth Orbit is rapidly emerging as the focus of commercial activity in space, with thousands of satellites spawning new generations services, ranging from broadband internet to Earth imaging. LEO represents both a new economy and a critical ecosystem shared globally by governments, space agencies, regulators, commercial satellite operators and insurance. Against this backdrop is the risk to satellites and astronauts posed by space debris, especially from the estimated 250,000 dangerous objects which are untracked today.
“New Zealand is a multi-decade strategic decision for us,” said Dan Ceperley, LeoLabs CEO. “The threats posed to a viable LEO economy and a sustainable space environment escalate with every launch. Our goal is to build out the LeoLabs global space radar network at a pace to match that threat. New Zealand represents the ideal location and partner to take that next step forward.”
LeoLabs’ announcement is ground-breaking in two respects. First, establishing a unique presence in the Southern Hemisphere enables LeoLabs to more accurately track objects and provide earlier notification of important events in space. Second, the phased array radar LeoLabs intends for New Zealand will be capable of tracking objects as small as 2cm, and address 95% of the risk that has never been tracked. “The New Zealand LeoLabs radar represents the future of commercial SSA”, added Ceperley. “We could not be more pleased with the support of the government here, and the future prospects for engaging the New Zealand space community.”
“We are thrilled to welcome LeoLabs to New Zealand to be part of our Innovative Partnerships programme,” said Dr. Megan Woods, New Zealand’s Minister for Research, Science and Innovation. “Innovative Partnerships is all about helping future-focused companies collaborate, innovate and connect here in New Zealand.”
LeoLabs and the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment (MBIE), which leads the Innovative Partnerships programme, have signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) that includes LeoLabs’ commitment to locate its next debris-tracking space radar in New Zealand. The MOU also expresses a mutual aspiration to expand New Zealand’s capabilities in spacerelated R&D. “New Zealand’s history is all about our ability to innovate and be at the forefront of change,” continued Minister Woods. “Our flourishing space industry is absolute testament to that. We welcome companies like LeoLabs to New Zealand that share our vision.”
The phased-array radar announced for New Zealand will complement two existing LeoLabs radars in North America. LeoLabs has been providing commercial SSA services since its founding in 2016. The company estimates completion of the New Zealand radar in mid-2019.
Founded in 2016 as a venture-funded spinout of Silicon Valley research pioneer, SRI International, LeoLabs provides access to critical mapping and SSA data for low Earth orbit. LeoLabs’ services include collision prevention, risk assessment, constellation monitoring, and commercial SSA. LeoLabs today serves space agencies, commercial satellite operators, defense, and scientific/academic organizations that are driving generational change in LEO. LeoLabs’ core technology includes a patent-pending global phased-array radar network which tracks debris and satellites in LEO. Observations generated from this network are the foundation of the LeoLabs mapping and SSA software platform, providing timely and accurate orbital and situational data.