World's First Regulatory Platform for Low Earth Orbit Satellites

LeoLabs, a commercial provider of Low Earth Orbit (LEO) mapping and Space Situational Awareness (SSA) services have announced the world's first dedicated regulatory platform for LEO. The Space Regulatory and Sustainability Platform, developed as a joint initiative between LeoLabs and the New Zealand Space Agency (NZSA). The regulatory platform offers a ground-breaking set of capabilities to empower the New Zealand government to meet its stated mission of encouraging a sustainable space environment for future generations.

LEO is rapidly emerging as the focus of commercial activity in space, with thousands of new satellites spawning unprecedented generations of services. Against this backdrop is the risk posed by orbital space debris – including an estimated 250,000 dangerous objects that are currently untracked. An expected growth in satellite constellations requires space-faring nations such as New Zealand to engage in monitoring and regulating satellite activity.

The Space Regulatory and Sustainability Platform provides cloud-based services based on LeoLabs' network of global sensors. Observations from this network are then processed via the LeoLabs mapping and SaaS platform which analyzes and delivers operational and compliance information to the New Zealand regulatory and space agency. The platform monitors satellites launched from New Zealand. Examples of services provided by this platform include:

  • Tracking of the current position, heading and orbit of each individual satellite that, in map form, show the satellite's location and ground track.
  • Historical records of the satellite's orbit (e.g., apogee, perigee, and inclination).
  • Reports of changes in the satellite's orbit relative to plan over time.
  • The ability to set and monitor orbit changes against regulatory limits for each satellite and alert the NZSA when a satellite is outside prescribed compliance parameters.

This announcement is the part of a larger joint vision between the New Zealand government and LeoLabs around space. In September 2018, LeoLabs and MBIE (Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment) announced a broad-based Memorandum of Understanding (MoU). Key elements of that MOU included working together on space-related R&D and services for the rapidly growing New Zealand space community, as well as the expansion of LeoLabs' space radar network into New Zealand. The regulatory platform illustrates the implementation of that MoU.

The Space Regulatory and Sustainability Platform developed with LeoLabs is a significant achievement in this direction and demonstrates current best practices within the commercial space regulatory arena. It also affirms intent to be proactive in addressing the preservation of space for future generations.