Our MISL group is leading on research into space-borne radar systems for SDA, with a focus on the utility of high frequency bands.
High frequency (sub-THz) radar is uniquely suited for SDA, as it is sensitive to texture and able to detect small features with a resolution in the order of centimetres, at up to 100km range. It does not require the target to be illuminated, and requires much smaller hardware: at 100km, attaining 2cm resolution requires a 30cm diameter radar antenna – compared to 30m required for an optical telescope. Spaceborne radar also has the unique ability to image satellites from their non-Earth facing side, gathering information that would otherwise be unknown.
With the number of spacecraft in orbit exponentially increasing, there is an increasing interest in the capability to monitor high-value assets in space. According to the United Nations Office for Outer Space Affairs (UNOOSA), there are upwards of 11,000 satellites in orbit as of June 2023 – almost 4000 more than two years previously. As the number of satellites in orbit increases dramatically, so too does the need for their identification and classification, and the ability to make autonomous decisions based on their positions and condition.