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Conjunction assessment for commercial satellite constellations using commercial radar data sources

For companies with multiple orbital assets, managing the risk of collision with other low-Earth orbit (LEO) Resident Space Objects (RSOs) can amount to a significant operational burden. LeoLabs and Planet investigate the impact of a workflow that integrates commercial Space Situational Awareness (SSA) data into conjunction assessments for large satellite constellations.

Radar measurements from LeoLabs are validated against truth orbits provided by the International Laser Ranging Service (ILRS) and to measurements from Planet’s on-board GPS instrumentation. The radar data is then used as input for orbit fits in order to form the basis of a conjunction assessment. To confirm the reliability of the orbit determination (OD), the generated ephemerides are validated against ILRS and GPS-derived orbits. In addition, a covariance realism assessment is performed in order to check for self-consistency by comparing the propagated orbit and the associated covariance against later measurements.

Several cases are investigated to assess the benefits of integrating radar-derived products with Conjunction Data Messages (CDMs) received on Planet spacecraft. Conjunction assessment is refined using onboard GPS measurements from Planet satellites along with tracking measurements of the secondary RSO by LeoLabs. This study demonstrates that commercial data provided by LeoLabs is reliable, accurate, and timely, and that ephemeris generated from LeoLabs data provides solutions and insights which are consistent with those provided in CDMs. For the cases analyzed, the addition of commercial SSA data from LeoLabs has a positive impact on operations due to the additional information on the state of the secondary RSO which can lead to increased confidence in any maneuver-related decisions. Measurements from LeoLabs can also be used to improve conjunction assessment for commercial satellites that do not have any operator OD.

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Conjunction assessment for commercial satellite constellations whitepaper