The prominent space observation radar TIRA (Tracking and Imaging Radar) is unique in Europe and provides valuable support for space situational awareness and, in particular, the reconnaissance of space objects. TIRA utilizes a 34-m Cassegrain antenna and comprises two radars, i.e., a narrowband, pulse radar for tracking that operates at the L band, as well as a broadband imaging radar operating at the Ku band. The former provides highly-accurate orbital parameters and the latter high-resolution imaging of space objects. The tracking radar is sensitive enough to detect a 2-cm sphere at a range of 1000 km. Furthermore, the imaging radar provides high spatial resolution inverse synthetic aperture radar (ISAR) images of space objects.
TIRA is a pivotal experimental facility for the development, investigation, and application of radar techniques for the detection and observation of objects in space. The radar data as well as the in-house developed techniques are used to determine characteristics of such objects, for instance obtaining precise orbital elements, intrinsic attitude motion and rotation parameters, estimates of their orbital lifetime, as well as their shape and size. TIRA also provides valuable support for space missions, e.g., during the launch and early operations phase as well as status assessment and damage analyses for spacecraft and resident space objects. The outstanding capabilities of TIRA together with the core competencies of Fraunhofer FHR are uniquely geared towards safety and sustainability in space.