SatPing – a tracking beacon for spacecraft

Immense growth in the use of spacecraft and the orbital debris population is driving an urgent need for effective space traffic management (STM) and responsible use of space. Currently, orbital knowledge (position and velocity) is primarily obtained by ground-based remote sensing (e.g., radar, optical, etc.) which results in significant position and velocity uncertainty.

These uncertainties complicate conjunction assessments and subsequent collision avoidance manoeuvres.
The goal is to develop a self-sufficient, bolt-on system that can be used for active and real-time orbital knowledge (position and velocity) from the spacecraft.

A design approach to improve Space Traffic Management (STM):

  • Like an ADS-B for Spacecraft (analogous to air trafic management moving from radar to active GPS broadcast)
  • Chip continuously broadcasts a ‘ping’ to listeners
  • Determine position and velocity through RF geolocation (and/or GPS)
  • Low SWAP and no interface/interaction with spacecraft (‘bolt-on’)
  • Simple processor + Transmitter + Battery + Mini Solar array (+ GPS)
  • Provides information even for dead spacecraft or rocket bodies

We propose a short-term scoping study to evaluate the feasibility of this onboard beacon that can be used to provide high-precision, real-time orbital information – assessing ITU and RF broadcasting limitations, technical extent of existing capabilities and connecting with relevant Australian (and international) entities and regulatory bodies to advance the concept to implementation.


Project Leader:
Associate Professor Shannon Ryan, Deakin University