The movement in Earth’s orbit will be controlled by the first satellite “patrol”

The Earth’s orbit will be monitored by the first commercial constellation of satellites capable of monitoring potentially dangerous objects to avoid collisions between spacecraft. Four “patrol” satellites of the Canadian startup NorthStar were named Space Situational Awareness (SSA). They are equipped with modern optical devices for detecting space objects and star trackers for precise positioning. The patrol satellites will be launched by Rocket Lab’s Electron rocket.

The satellites of the Canadian startup NorthStar were named Space Situational Awareness (SSA). Illustration: NorthStar

With the development of the space industry, concerns about space sustainability and safety are also growing. Today, the U.S. Space Surveillance Network and other military agencies have advanced systems for detecting, tracking and identifying objects in Earth orbit. Unfortunately, they usually do not share this information with other space organizations. That is why other private companies come to the rescue, which are concerned about solving problems with clogging near-Earth orbit.

The satellites are built by Spire Global, a provider of space data and analytics, and are designed to provide continuous monitoring of space objects in low Earth orbit, medium Earth orbit and geostationary orbit. NorthStar satellites will provide maneuver detection, proximity warning, and anomaly detection for spacecraft in orbit, providing early detection and warning of space-related hazards and helping fill gaps left by ground-based sky monitoring systems. 

Illustration of the NorthStar satellite

The company plans to launch 12 satellites by 2026, increasing its coverage to more than 60% of the near-Earth orbital sky and up to 100% when used with other sensors. The full constellation will consist of 24 NorthStar satellites.

The need for such a system is growing every day, as more and more companies launch their satellites into orbit, and the potential of the space economy largely depends on avoiding conflicts and protecting commercial and government assets in space.

Earlier, we reported on how two large pieces of debris almost caused a disaster in orbit.

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