Johns Hopkins APL Delivers New Satellite Tracking Capability to U.S. Space Force

Thu, 03/24/2022 - 11:40
Shanessa Jackson and Ken Melton

Locating and tracking active satellites and debris in geosynchronous orbit, more than 22,000 miles above the Earth, is a real-world challenge.

Tools such as optical sensors — both in space and on the ground — can be hindered by sunlight and weather and also lack the range or sensitivity for precise tracking.

Taking a novel approach to the problem, engineers at the Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory (APL) in Laurel, Maryland, designed, developed and validated the Deep Space Advanced Radar Concept (DARC), a technology demonstrator that uses a sparse array of dish antennas to track objects in space.

Backed by APL’s significant experience in national security space and air and missile defense, DARC will become the largest-ever tracking radar system.

“DARC technology demonstration is addressing several risks for a future operational radar that enables deep space domain awareness for the nation,” said Patrick Binning, APL’s mission area executive for National Security Space. “DARC provides the foundation for a critical capability for the defense of space.”