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Advanced Exploration Systems Division

Ka-Band Objects: Observation and Monitoring (KaBOOM)

Active Technology Project

Project Introduction

NASA has embarked on a path to implement a high power, higher resolution radar system to:

•Track Near Earth Objects (NEOs)- asteroids and comets -100,000 times more accurately than optical telescopes, as part of a system to defend the Earth from major impacts.

•Characterize the size, shape, spin rate, and surface properties of these NEOs to determine which are suitable for eventual visits by crews or mining companies.

•Track orbital debris to ensure crew and spacecraft safety.

The path to the high power radar will take evolutionary steps to lead to the revolutionary capability.  The first step is KaBOOM.


NASA is pursuing a demonstration of coherent uplink arraying at 7.145-7.190 GHz (X-band) and 30-31 GHz (Ka-band) using three 12m diameter commercial off-the-shelf (COTS) antennas separated by 60m at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida.  In addition, the Agency has demonstrated uplink arraying using up to three 34m antennas separated by ~250m at the Goldstone Deep Space Communication Complex in California and at X-band 7.1 GHz incorporating real-time correction for tropospheric phase fluctuations.  Such a successful demonstration would then enable NASA to design and establish a high power, high resolution, 24/7 availability radar system for

(a) tracking and characterizing observations of Near Earth Objects,

(b) tracking, characterizing and determining the statistics of small-scale (≤10cm) orbital debris,

(c) incorporating the capability into the Agency's space communication and navigation tracking stations for emergency spacecraft commanding in the Ka-band era that NASA is entering, and

(d) fielding capabilities of interest to other US government agencies. 

The Ka-band radar offers the possibility of high range resolution (5 cm) and high spatial resolution, also 5 cm for orbital debris in geosynchronous orbit (GEO) around the Earth (about 22,000 miles above the surface).  The project will consist of three phases or evolutionary steps that will lead to the new revolutionary capability.  The beginning is KaBOOM.

KaBOOM: Space communication system at 8 and 30 GHz, currently in development at Kennedy Space Center, as the prelude to a high power radar array. Will demonstrate phased array uplink of widely spaced antennas with real time compensation for atmospheric phase fluctuations.

KARNAC (Ka band Array Radar for NEO Accurate Characterization): KaBOOM will be transformed to a phased array radar demonstration facility.  Each antenna will have a transmitter of 25 kW peak power in the 34-36 GHz range. The total combined uplink power will be ~ 225 kW.

SOAR (Space Object Array Radar): Large element operational phased array radar (15 – 100 transmitter elements) for both at X and Ka-band high precision tracking, imaging and characterization of near Earth objects and orbital debris. Each antenna will have 100 kW of transmit power with a bandwidth of 4 GHz centered on a frequency of 35 GHz, yielding a  range resolution of 5 cm.

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