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Europe Sets Sights On Asteroid Tracking Radars

Soulskill posted more than 2 years ago | from the bruce-willis-bat-signal dept.

EU 44

coondoggie writes "The European Space Agency today said it would develop a radar system that will be capable of tracking space hazards such as asteroids and orbital debris. ESA and France's Office National d'Etudes et Recherches Aérospatiales research center will work with five other partners in France, Spain and Switzerland to this month design a test surveillance radar and develop a $6 million demonstrator model."

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Science (3, Funny)

Dan East (318230) | more than 2 years ago | (#41315181)

Yeah yeah, it's got all kind of sciencey uses. Asteroids and stuff like that. But what are the military applications???

Re:Science (5, Funny)

KDR_11k (778916) | more than 2 years ago | (#41315229)

Detecting Space Nazis before they land.

Re:Science (1)

rbrausse (1319883) | more than 2 years ago | (#41315525)

no wonder Germany isn't part of the co-operation

Re:Science (1)

K. S. Kyosuke (729550) | more than 2 years ago | (#41316143)

Detecting Space Nazis before they land.

Or, with sufficient resolution, mapping Julia Dietze from a safe distance.

Re:Science (1)

macraig (621737) | more than 2 years ago | (#41318905)

I say we preemptively nudge a few asteroids into the backside of the moon, just to be on the safe side. NASA's got Dawn out there, we could repurpose it. Vesta and Ceres would make a nice satisfying bang when they hit.

Re:Science (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#41315345)

EU doesn't even has a unified public economic policy, so don't expect "military applications" from it.
A proud EU citizen - who would like a EU military... being Greek and spending mutch of his few money for big guns trying to stop Turkey from raping me!

Re:Science (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#41315901)

Stop being so paranoid. If Turkey wanted to hurt Greece, there is nothing the Greek military could do about it. But the probability of one NATO member attacking another is approximately zero. With that in mind and the fact that your country is going bankrupt, perhaps stopping the spending on defense might be a smart idea. Meet your NATO obligations, but don't spend a euro more.

Re:Science (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#41316099)

Stop being so paranoid.

I am not ! Really !

If Turkey wanted to hurt Greece, there is nothing the Greek military could do about it.

Oh... OK !

But the probability of one NATO member attacking another is approximately zero.

Well... in that "approximately zero" you count the last major incident that happend in 1996 (few days after my serving in the Greek military was ended) that cost the lifes of 3 Greeks ?

With that in mind and the fact that your country is going bankrupt, perhaps stopping the spending on defense might be a smart idea. Meet your NATO obligations, but don't spend a euro more.

Great idea! See my first post (the one you answer to) about how mutch i like the idea of an EU military.

Re:Science (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#41316335)

In order for the EU to have a real military, the EU would need to be sovereign. Considering the banking crisis I think this is the logical course of action, but getting countries to give up their sovereignty to trust in a new union will be tough. But the only alternative is chaos and marginalization compared to the giants of the US and China (and India and Brazil in the future).

A good example of the weakness and lack of cooperation of Europe right now is the ESA. It is an organization that has existed almost as long as NASA or Ruscosmos, but hasn't even built a single manned launch vehicle. The ESA is commissioned under the richest political union on the planet, yet it only has a quarter of NASA's budget. Oh, and I forgot to mention that there are another dozen nation-specific space agencies in Europe. And when those agencies want to do something, they cooperate with NASA and not each other.

Re:Science (1)

gomiam (587421) | more than 2 years ago | (#41316499)

Yes, ESA (created in 1975) has existed almost as long as NASA (created om 1958). 17 years are nothing at all. If you had at least talked about the EEC (1957)...

Re:Science (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#41316725)

The ESA formed from the merger of the ELDO (1960) and ESRO (1964). Thus, the ESA has been around almost as long as NASA even if it had different names.

Re:Science (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#41316805)

I agree with you (your dates about ESA may be a bit off, but the example still stands - even my country Greece has it's own space agency, one among the dozen other in Europe !).
As i said, (while still a proud Greek) a proud EU citizen... someday!

Re:Science (1)

fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) | more than 2 years ago | (#41315789)

Yeah yeah, it's got all kind of sciencey uses. Asteroids and stuff like that. But what are the military applications???

I'll let you ponder all the other fun stuff that you can track in the vicinity of the earth with a high-performance radar system...

Re:Science (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#41316329)

The military use radar absolutely everywhere.

Re:Science (1)

slashmydots (2189826) | more than 2 years ago | (#41319467)

Are you kidding? It said an asteroid tracking radar! This isn't an asteroid-tracking radar or there would have been a hyphen there. I can imagine all sorts of things that the military could use it for like finding the source of broadcast radar pulses and destroying them.

I read this as "steroids" (2)

joelsanda (619660) | more than 2 years ago | (#41315193)

"Europe Sets Sights on Steroid Tracking Radars"

Re:I read this as "steroids" (1)

Riddler Sensei (979333) | more than 2 years ago | (#41316073)

There have been reports of doping among combatant submarine crews. This could be revolutionary!

They Aren't For Tracking Asteroids (5, Informative)

careysub (976506) | more than 2 years ago | (#41315227)

The ESA radar systems are for tracking space debris orbiting the Earth not for tracking asteroids.

Sheesh - can't the summary writer at least read TFA? (I know, I know, this is /.)

Re:They Aren't For Tracking Asteroids (1)

Chris Burke (6130) | more than 2 years ago | (#41315417)

The ESA radar systems are for tracking space debris orbiting the Earth not for tracking asteroids.

Well unless the asteroids were captured by earth's gravity. :)

But yeah, detecting radio signals broadcast from earth then bounced off an asteroid would be redonculously hard. It's hard enough using the sun as our illumination.

Re:They Aren't For Tracking Asteroids (4, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#41315719)

Not as hard as you would think [nasa.gov] . Radar is actually already in (relatively) wide use for asteroid research, since asteroids tend to have quite low albedos (ie., they're really dark) and aren't lit that well. It's often easier to get a radar image than a decent visible image...of course, that's if you already know where the asteroid is and can use a high-gain antenna (like Goldstone's) to not waste all your power.

Re:They Aren't For Tracking Asteroids (1)

Chris Burke (6130) | more than 2 years ago | (#41315763)

I guess not! That's neat.

Re:They Aren't For Tracking Asteroids (1)

K. S. Kyosuke (729550) | more than 2 years ago | (#41316187)

But yeah, detecting radio signals broadcast from earth then bounced off an asteroid would be redonculously hard.

What do you mean by that? Venus, for example, was mapped from Earth using a radar as early as in 1961.

Re:They Aren't For Tracking Asteroids (1)

Charliemopps (1157495) | more than 2 years ago | (#41316663)

Because Venus is just a tad bit bigger than an asteroid.

Re:They Aren't For Tracking Asteroids (1)

Chris Burke (6130) | more than 2 years ago | (#41316751)

Venus is visible to the naked eye before the sun even fully sets. Kinda different than an asteroid.

But the main thing is I was implicitly tying "tracking" and "discovery" in my head, since most 'normal' uses of radar the two coincide. Discovering asteroids with radar would be ridiculous. Examining objects already known allows the use of high-gain antennae and so is much more feasible as the AC pointed out.

Re:They Aren't For Tracking Asteroids (2)

K. S. Kyosuke (729550) | more than 2 years ago | (#41317271)

Discovering asteroids with radar would be ridiculous

Given the state of modern RF technology, I wouldn't exclude even that. We can send massive RF pulses today and I think that the best radar interferometers are much more sensitive than any optical telescope we've ever built. The problem might be that most of the larger asteroids have already been found using other means, so studying the known significant ones makes more sense than finding the remaining pebbles.

Re:They Aren't For Tracking Asteroids (2)

Dyinobal (1427207) | more than 2 years ago | (#41315457)

I was going to come on here and complain about how inefficient radar is, when used at the sort of distances that are common in space. Low and behold the summary is wrong and they plan to use it to track orbital debris which is a much more logical use of a radar system.

Re:They Aren't For Tracking Asteroids (2)

careysub (976506) | more than 2 years ago | (#41317931)

Real asteroid detection systems employ infrared space-based telescopes, since asteroids of all types glow brightly in the infrared.

But where a radar would come in handy is accurately determining the orbital elements of an asteroid once detected. With infrared telescopes all you get with a detection is the brightness and direction. Successive observations as the asteroid and satellite move over the course of months is required to develop enough data for decent orbit, and if it is one that will come close to Earth it can take years to get enough data to tell that it will not hit the Earth.

A specially designed radar to fire pulses at asteroids to get accurate ranges and velocity along the line of sight would make generating accurate orbits much faster. That is what I was hoping this article would describe.

Re:They Aren't For Tracking Asteroids (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#41315473)

Heck, I didn't need to read the article or the summary to know that the headline was wrong. Can you just imagine trying to blanket a huge sphere (sure, need better coverage in the main ecliptic, but still the total coverage is a sphere) with RADAR and then expect to get results from tiny objects thousands or millions of kilometers away? Not happening any time soon. The number of RADAR stations broadcasting to do that and have it actually work would be just huge.

What is this, exactly? (2)

vlm (69642) | more than 2 years ago | (#41315411)

Can someone advise as to what this is? Is it a report about TIRA ran thru a journalist filter, or something very much like the existing TIRA project?

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/TIRA_(System) [wikipedia.org]

Here's NASA's version of the same thing:

http://www.orbitaldebris.jsc.nasa.gov/measure/radar.html [nasa.gov]

And... (1)

jamstar7 (694492) | more than 2 years ago | (#41315681)

cue NASA budget cuts in 5... 4... 3...

why not use GPS satellites ? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#41315449)

There is already a constellation of satellites orbiting the earth for GPS ... why didnt they put radars on the back of those satellites and use that to monitor whatever came close to earth ... seems pretty simple.

Re:why not use GPS satellites ? (2)

Baloroth (2370816) | more than 2 years ago | (#41315661)

It isn't practical to do this. Radar requires a relatively large investment of energy. GPS signals (by comparison) are extremely weak and low-energy. In other words, GPS systems don't have the power to do it. Nor the size for that matter: radar at these scales requires rather large emitters and receivers, in the scale of 20+ meters. Hard to do that on a GPS satellite (or any satellite, for that matter).

Re:why not use GPS satellites ? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#41317539)

Hard to do that on a GPS satellite (or any satellite, for that matter).

Moon?

Re:why not use GPS satellites ? (1)

jamstar7 (694492) | more than 2 years ago | (#41315707)

Power budgets and lack of easy repair.

Intercontinental ballistic asteroids (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#41315799)

I hear Russia will be installing an asteroid radar in Cuba to detect any "asteroids" the European radar has missed.

Don't worry (1)

puddingebola (2036796) | more than 2 years ago | (#41316221)

If Lucifer's Hammer hits the earth, I plan to continue delevering the mail. Neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night stays these couriers from the swift completion of their appointed rounds.

ONERA (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#41316247)

For the record, ONERA is also the creator of the GRAVES [wikipedia.org] satellite surveillance system.

Simply use SMART-L (1)

Frans Faase (648933) | more than 2 years ago | (#41316435)

I guess that a (modified version of) SMART-L radar [wikipedia.org] could do this job. Don't understand why 6 milion Euro is needed for building a demonstrator.

Re:Simply use SMART-L (1)

cowboy76Spain (815442) | more than 2 years ago | (#41317683)

I guess that a (modified version of) SMART-L radar [wikipedia.org] could do this job. Don't understand why 6 milion Euro is needed for building a demonstrator.

Have you read your own link? It says it can track an aircraft at 480 km. Now, assuming that just area is the only concern (and that radar waves are not altered when crossing the ionosphere), an space object with an area of 0.25m^2 (which can easily destroy a rocket/satellite) would be undetectable at just 100km. And that is just the lower limit of "space", and assumes that the radar is vertically under the object.

For tracking space debris (1)

viperidaenz (2515578) | more than 2 years ago | (#41317083)

... and ICBM's and spy satellites

asteroids is correct (1)

tbonefrog (739501) | more than 2 years ago | (#41321665)

one of the articles linked in the post does mention asteroids, and in truth, if an asteroid on a collision course or near miss was to intersect the radar signal, you would get several milliseconds, perhaps even a second, of pucker time before the event was over.

Rendezvous With Rama (1)

ThatsNotPudding (1045640) | more than 2 years ago | (#41322047)

Man, I love that book. One moment I would love if they made it into a movie; the next moment I am terrified they will make it into a movie.

More information (2)

mattr (78516) | more than 2 years ago | (#41323857)

Had some fun looking up and finding some more information about the project and why it is being done.
Seems that ONERA, the French aerospace research institute, builds military radar among other things, and their bistatic experiment worked so well it is practically a finished product, so they are expanding it already. The OP project is probably based on this. So these things are dual-use though the OP's ESA project says it is to protect satellites and European citizens.
Overview of ONERA radar products: http://www.onera.fr/demr-en/references.php [onera.fr]

Details about the French GRAVES experimental bistatic radar facility and how it works with Germany's TIRA.
So successful they are being upgraded now. France, Australia and Canada cooperate with the USAF.
GRAVES was built in 2004 and is owned by the French arms procurement agency.
GRAVES is for objects in Low Earth Orbit, up to 1000km altitude. The upgrade will allow it to broaden the swath of sky and to eliminate errors in trajectory position to more precisely determine on its own whether or not two objects are destined to collide.
TIRA belongs to the German military. Though the new system is for all Germany not just the military they say.
"... Space situational awareness [is seen] as an important element in Germany’s national sovereignty."
From 2012, TIRA personnel will be trained by French and Americans.
http://www.spacenews.com/military/110531-france-germany-anchor-europe-ssa.html [spacenews.com]

GRAVES, The French Space Surveillance System
http://www.onera.fr/dcps-en/graves-space-surveillance-system/index.php [onera.fr]

Aerial views of GRAVES, apparently. Explains that it can make angular measurements and get radial velocity.
http://www.thelivingmoon.com/45jack_files/03files/GRAVES_French_Radar_Surveillance_Facility.html [thelivingmoon.com]

A bit more info on the OP article (French so use Google translate)
http://www.smartplanet.fr/smart-technology/un-futur-radar-europeen-contre-les-debris-de-lespace-17211/ [smartplanet.fr]
It adds:
- work begins Sept. 2012
- The goal is to help European satellite operators to exclude collision risk and improve safety in Earth orbit, an area in which France has recognized expertise, says ESA.
- "The two demonstrators radar will be part of an initial network of sensors that will also include optical telescopes and data processing centers to ensure observation of space debris on all types of orbits. '
- In the case of new experimental radar, the transmitter will be on the influence of the former airbase Crucey-Villages (Eure-et-Loir), about 100 km west of Paris, and the receiver will near Palaiseau (Essonne), south of Paris.
- The SSA ... first phase, the preparatory program, [was] authorized ... in November 2008. As part of this program, the ESA is to acquire the ability to monitor any danger to the area, since the risk of collisions between satellites and space debris to the impact of a celestial body through natural by space weather related to solar activity.
- The SSA program exposes the ESA will provide the final of Europe's ability to detect, predict and evaluate the potential risks to life and property represented by space debris, atmospheric reentry, explosions in orbit launches , collisions, disruption of missions and services using satellites, the potential impacts of NEOs, and the effects of intense space weather events on infrastructure both space and on the ground.
- In summer 2011, a U.S. report had alerted the critical level of waste in orbit . This amount has become so important that it may trigger a snowball effect and threatening activity satellites and astronauts. (need link)

English NRC report "Limiting Future Collision Risk to Spacecraft - An Assessment of NASA's Meteoroid and Orbital Debris Programs" http://www.nap.edu/openbook.php?record_id=13244 [nap.edu]
          (Table of Contents and Chapter links here [nap.edu] )

Related Article on orbital debris and Robin Hood report:
    French: http://www.smartplanet.fr/smart-technology/les-debris-spatiaux-atteignent-un-niveau-critique-6157/ [smartplanet.fr]
    Related article on Robin Hood report on orbital debris
        French article http://www.smartplanet.fr/smart-technology/debris-spatiaux-une-association-demande-la-creation-dun-fonds-par-les-usagers-de-lespace-4717/ [smartplanet.fr]
    The Robin Hood report "Space Waste" in English (PDF) http://www.robindesbois.org/english/Space-Waste.pdf [robindesbois.org]

United States Space Surveillance Network
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/United_States_Space_Surveillance_Network [wikipedia.org]

ESA's Space Situational Awareness website. Cool!
"SSA protects Europe's citizens and satellite-based services by detecting space hazards"
http://www.esa.int/esaMI/SSA/index.html [esa.int]

One of the areas, Eure-et-Loire, may host a big solar generation plant.
http://28130.campagnol.fr/spip.php?article111 [campagnol.fr] (French)

The area also hosts NOSTRADAMUS, a cool over-the-horizon radar that bounces low frequency waves off the ionosphere.
That was also built by ONERA which won the OP's LEO monitoring radar project. Neat, it can track boats in distress thousands of kilometers out to sea!
http://www.onera.fr/photos-en/instexp/nostradamus.php [onera.fr]

FWIW, a mention about a separate idea at NASA for a different program, to find very near earth asteroids down to 30m diameter. (Aug 2012)
https://www.fbo.gov/?s=opportunity&mode=form&id=6f376a73db0138c7acc7097f94a24124&tab=core&_cview=0 [fbo.gov]
http://www.networkworld.com/community/blog/nasa-exploring-possible-mission-better-track-asteroids-threaten-earth [networkworld.com]

Re:More information (1)

mattr (78516) | more than 2 years ago | (#41324081)

p.s. That is of course Robin Des Bois, not Robin Hood. Interesting report on Space Waste. Des Bois also interviewed ESA members:

Following a request from Robin des Bois, an interview took place on January 14,
2011 at the ESA offices in Paris between the three members of the NGO and seven
members of ESA. Three were physically present and four attended via
videoconference from the Kourou launch center in French Guiana - including the
ATv2 program director - and the European Space Research and Technology Centre
(ESTEC) headquarters in Noordwijk, the Netherlands.

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