My house, my car, my space surveillance radar?

The GESTRA space surveillance radar in Koblenz is attracting interest from numerous countries.
The antenna on the positioning unit of the receiver.

The GESTRA space surveillance radar can be used to observe satellites, but also space debris. So who is surprised that numerous countries are expressing interest in the system? Hensoldt Sensors GmbH, as a partner of Fraunhofer FHR, is therefore now to push ahead with commercialization.

Around seven million particles float through space – from disused satellites and jettisoned protective shells to screws and fragments. And there are more every day. This is because small private companies are increasingly sending satellites into orbit, and interest in space reconnaissance is growing not only in the area of research, but also in operations. Also, more and more nations want to expand their competence in the area of space attitude, i.e. to better and more accurately track the orbit of their own satellites in order to better protect them from collisions.  

GESTRA makes it possible

This is possible with the semi-mobile space surveillance radar GESTRA, which researchers at Fraunhofer FHR have developed for the Space Situational Awareness Center on behalf of the German Space Agency at DLR. It is therefore not surprising that Fraunhofer FHR is receiving an increasing number of inquiries in the direction of commercializing GESTRA, especially from states. And indeed, the project was conceived from the outset in such a way that, in addition to the experimental system, a partner would be brought on board to bring the system to market as a product. Then, well-heeled private individuals could also set up their own space observation radar in their backyard, for example, to keep an eye on their mega constellations of small satellites.

However, the first customers are likely to be mainly governmental. It is also conceivable that several GESTRAs could be connected together, thus expanding the search area covered.  

On the road to commercialization

Fraunhofer FHR researchers have now raised the space surveillance radar to a Technology Readiness Level of six. This data will now be handed over to Hensoldt Sensors GmbH as a partner for commercialization, and the transfer of know-how will be initiated. The commercialized version of GESTRA will thus incorporate a great deal of »lessons learned,« and thus a great deal of experiential knowledge that the Fraunhofer researchers have built up during the development of GESTRA – for example, in the area of integration into the container as well as system design. Knowledge from which the system benefits. Hensoldt will push the technology maturity level even higher and develop a commercial solution from the experimental GESTRA system.