Lockheed Martin Space and Curtin University are applying technology previously used to observe meteorite fireballs to track satellites.
At a fraction of the cost of current technologies, the system has the potential to radically disrupt the way space objects in orbit will be tracked, according to Lockheed Martin.
The FireOPAL project uses a range of sensors to track satellites and space debris which will ultimately provide a persistent view of objects in orbit around the Earth. It will also provide an early warning system of potential problems affecting satellites and their interaction with the thousands of pieces of space debris. The system is an adaptation of Curtin University’s Desert Fireball Network meteorite tracking capability.
Rod Drury, managing director Australia and New Zealand for Lockheed Martin Space, said FireOPAL is an entirely Australian innovation that is set to be expanded around the world.
“This technology enables us to track objects in space in a way that hasn’t been done before,” Drury said. “We are trialling more space situational awareness sensors and new capabilities to assess what is possible and explore the advantages and challenges of combining data from different sensors.”
“FireOPAL is a great example of how blue-sky space science projects can rapidly translate into real benefits for Australian space industries and defence,” Professor Phil Bland, leader of the Desert Fireball Network at Curtin University, said. “FireOPAL has the potential to be a disruptive technology in space situational awareness. We’re looking forward to exploring that potential with Lockheed Martin.”
The joint research and development partnership between Lockheed Martin Space and Curtin University was first announced at the 68th International Astronautical Congress in September 2017.