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Orbital Debris Program Office

Orbital Debris Radar Measurements

NASA's main source of data for debris in the size range of 1 to 30 cm is the Haystack radar. The Haystack radar, operated by MIT Lincoln Laboratory, has been collecting orbital debris data for NASA since 1990 under an agreement with the U.S. Department of Defense. Haystack statistically samples the debris population by "staring" at selected pointing angles and detecting debris that fly through its field-of-view. The data are used to characterize the debris population by size, altitude, and inclination. From these measurements, scientists have concluded that there are over 500,000 debris fragments in orbit with sizes down to one centimeter. NASA also collects data from the Haystack Auxiliary Radar (HAX) located next to the main Haystack antenna. Although HAX is less sensitive than Haystack, it operates at a different wavelength (1.8 cm for HAX versus 3 cm for Haystack) and has a wider field-of-view.

Haystack X-Band Radar
Haystack X-Band Radar - MIT Lincoln Laboratory in Lexington, MA
Kwajalein Radar Complex
Kwajalein Radar Complex
Millstone Radar & Firepond Telescope
Millstone Radar
NASA has conducted limited observation campaigns using the radar systems located at NASA's Goldstone radar in California; Kwajalein Atoll (U.S. Army; USAKA); the FPS-85 phased array radar at Eglin AFB, Florida; the Millstone radar in Massachusetts; and the Perimeter Acquisition Characterization Radar System (PARCS) in North Dakota. NASA has also participated in debris searches organized by the U.S. Strategic Command and by the FGAN radar located in Germany.