Published Friday, April 23, 2021
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff
Silicon Valley-based LeoLabs, Inc., provider of Commercial Low-Earth Orbit, LEO, mapping and space situational awareness services inaugurated full operations at its Space Radar facility in Filadelfia Canton, Guanacaste Province.
The company broke ground on the new phased-array radar in July 2020. LeoLabs hopes the radar will help inform and protect rapidly expanding commercial and governmental assets in LEO.
Having a radar site near the equator gives LeoLabs unique capabilities to track active satellites and orbital debris as small as two centimeters in low inclination orbits, and provide full coverage of other activities in LEO.
“Only nine months after breaking ground in Costa Rica, it is gratifying to announce full operational status for the most advanced commercial space radar of its kind anywhere on the planet,” said LeoLabs Co-Founder and CEO Dan Ceperley. “The Costa Rica Space Radar is a critical addition to the global constellation of radars LeoLabs is building, and clearly demonstrates not just our rapid deployment capabilities, but the dramatic increase in data underpinning our LeoLabs services platform.”
The inaugural ceremony was attended by government officials including President Carlos Alvarado.
“LeoLabs investment in its Costa Rica Space Radar is a true example of the range of opportunities we have as a country in attracting state-of-the-art technology companies that promote a greater environment for innovation,” said President Alvarado. “This project extends responsible management of caring for the environment to space, an inherent value in a country like ours.”
In July 2020, LeoLabs announced the installation of their space radar in Costa Rica.
The company’s decision to locate its next radar in Costa Rica is also the result of a longstanding relationship between two former NASA astronauts, LeoLabs executive and co-founder, Edward Lu, Ph.D. and Ad Astra CEO and co-founder, Franklin Chang Díaz, Ph.D.
According to the firm, in the Spring of 2019, Lu reached out to his longtime colleague, Chang Diaz, to discuss the advantages of building a radar in Costa Rica.
"From our mutual experience in space, Dr. Lu and I were both excited about the opportunity to address the threat to human spaceflight posed by space debris," Chang Diaz said. "The project in Costa Rica offered us the chance to increase safety of flight in space and enable responsible stewardship to drive our mission of preserving critical ecosystems."
As both a new economy and an emerging ecosystem shared globally across governments, space agencies, regulators, commercial satellite operators and insurance, LEO presents an unprecedented opportunity for the new space sector, said the company in its statement. "It also highlights the threat to satellites and astronauts posed by space debris, especially from the estimated 250,000 dangerous objects currently untracked today, " they added.
Founded in 2016 as a venture-funded spinout of Silicon Valley research pioneer, SRI International, LeoLabs provides access to critical mapping and SSA data for low Earth orbit.
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