News, Science

Most advanced space radar on the planet set up in Guanacaste

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Guanacaste is home to the new Costa Rica Space Radar, the most advanced commercial device of its kind in the world, which will provide a unique contribution of space data from our country.

This investment represents a milestone in attracting investment to the country and the province, and its contribution to the scientific community is even greater.

“It’s exactly the type of project that will facilitate scientific development, empower young people and improve the safety of space flights,” explained former astronaut Franklin Chang, who is CEO of Ad Astra and a business partner of LeoLabs, the firm that built the new radar that it will operate in Guanacaste.

LeoLabs is an international company that provides data and services to its clients to understand and protect business and government activities that are developed in Low Earth Orbit (LEO). To put it briefly, the radar locates space debris and makes it possible to avoid collisions.

Costa Rica’s environmental standard motivated LeoLabs’ decision to build the radar in the country and the land where it is located was donated to the company.

The radar’s inauguration was held on Thursday, April 22 in the morning, in “record time.” Just nine months after work began in Costa Rica, the commercial radar is 100% operational, according to LeoLabs CEO Dan Ceperley.


The Costa Rica Space Radar is a critical addition to the series of radars that LeoLabs is building around the world. Credit: LeoLabs.Photo: LeoLabs

What does this device do?

This radar, located in Filadelfia in the canton of Carrillo, allows full coverage of low Earth orbit, tracks objects, including active satellites and orbital debris as small as two centimeters in size.

Space debris is one of the greatest risks for astronauts and orbiting satellites. That’s why they need to be mapped accurately.

The new radar will provide an abundance of data and will help prevent collisions or track early launches. This is its main objective, said Edward Lu, former NASA astronaut and co-founder of LeoLabs.

LeoLabs’ clients are satellite operators, space regulatory agencies, insurance companies and the scientific community, to whom they will now provide more information.

This firm is building more radars around the world that, together with the one installed in Costa Rica, make it possible to provide a real-time map of more objects in Earth’s orbit.

“This is an important contribution to space sustainability and flight safety,” Lu added.

Attracting Investment and Challenges

President Carlos Alvarado participated in the inauguration and stressed that this device shows that the country has the possibility of attracting cutting-edge technology investments.

Alvarado added that the project extends responsible management of caring for the environment to outer space and that this is aligned with actions to promote decarbonization of the economy.

Co-founder and CEO of LeoLabs, Dan Ceperley, confirmed that the environmental commitment that characterizes Costa Rica was precisely one of the main reasons for choosing it as the home of this new radar and starting a long-term relationship with the country.

All of the jobs created went to professionals in the country. Even so, there is a need to train more people so that the country and Guanacaste can continue to attract this type of investment, emphasized the Minister of Science, Technology and Telecommunications, Paola Vega.

It’s a relevant milestone that reminds us of the importance of maintaining efforts to promote training our population for the opportunities of the age of knowledge,” Vega mentioned.

Meanwhile, Costa Rica will also be home to a space agency and the province, for its part, the Guanacaste Space Center, which “will be the one that investigates, innovates and develops matters related to space, under a collaborative scheme with other laboratories already existing in the country,” according to the Law on the Creation of the Costa Rican Space Agency, which has already been passed by the Legislative Assembly and signed by the president.