Space debris is a serious threat to satellites, and Lockheed Martin is now teaming up to further help keep satellites safe as they orbit around the planet. The firm is partnering with Electro Optic Systems (EOS) to build a facility in Australia that they say will increase the world's ability to track space debris by 25 percent — if not more. EOS says that, so long as the debris is tracked, satellites will be able to avoid it, which will be increasingly important as the value of tech up in space continues to grow. Through the 2000s, EOS says that more than $400 billion worth of equipment was sent up.
The system can even tell what a piece of debris is made of
The facility will be built in Western Australia and is scheduled to begin operation in early 2016. EOS says that the site will uses lasers and telescope-like optical systems to track man-made debris, which might be composed of old spacecraft parts, rocket bodies, and fragments from exploded missiles or satellites. These pieces are often as small as 1 to 10mm and can easily be deflected off of satellites' shielding, but larger pieces could take a satellite down entirely.
"Ground-based space situational awareness is a growing priority for government and commercial organizations around the world that need to protect their investments in space," Rick Ambrose, a Lockheed Martin Space Systems executive, says in a statement. This new system that Lockheed is building, Ambrose says, will allow it to "offer customers a clearer picture of the objects that could endanger their satellites," and to do that with "great precision." Beyond just tracking debris in space, Lockheed and EOS' systems will be able to tell what objects are made of as well. The new system will also compliment the US Air Force's Space Fence program, which is capable of tracking 200,000 objects and is also being developed by Lockheed Martin.