India’s first commercial space situational awareness observatory, to track objects as small as 10 cm in size orbiting the earth, will be set up in the Garhwal region of Uttarakhand by Digantara, a space sector start-up.
The space situational awareness (SSA) observatory will help India track any activity in space including that of space debris and military satellites hovering over the region.
Currently, the United States is a dominant player in monitoring space debris with observatories in multiple locations and commercial companies providing additional inputs from across the world.
The observatory in Uttarakhand will fill the crucial gap in SSA observations in the region as there is a lack of such facilities between Australia and southern Africa.
The high-quality observations, along with those of its partner ground-based sensor network, would help improve its ability to monitor events occurring in deep space, especially in the geostationary, medium-Earth, and high-Earth orbits.
With this data, it would be able to reduce the potential for collisions between satellites and other spacecraft by making more accurate predictions of their location, speed, and trajectory.
The observatory will also give India indigenous capabilities to monitor space activity over the subcontinent. Ahead of the war in Ukraine, several Russian satellites were seen hovering over the region.
If, for example, Chinese satellites are seen over one particular region of India for a long time, having indigenous capability to monitor such activities and not being dependent on countries like the US is a plus for India.
India has been monitoring space objects using multi-object tracking radars and the SSA observatory will be a huge boost in the sector.
There is an increasing need for efficient collision avoidance systems in highly congested orbital regions like low earth orbit and geosynchronous earth orbit.