Orbital parameters determination via ground radar stations

Space Situational Awareness (SSA) is an activity ensuring the monitoring of space activities in order to have a common operational picture of space. One of the main objectives is the surveillance of orbits and the tracking of objects, which can be spacecraft and debris. Some satellite operators provide the orbital data of their spacecrafts, whereas the information of other objects in space (uncontrolled or classified satellites for example) require the use of ground stations in order to determine their orbital parameters.



Thanks to the French space radar GRAVES, it is possible to set up a passive radar system with relatively simple resources. So far, three antenna sites exist in Switzerland. A simple tool which allows a fitting with known TLE data was developed by armasuisse. Through a Space Campus project and by adapting the existing passive radar network, a system is to be created that makes it possible to independently generate orbits out of the recorded data. At least three sites are necessary for this.


The main objective of this project is to determine the orbital parameters and attitude, if possible, of unknown objects using a set of ground stations in different locations using radar technology. Some basic capacities are already available, but a whole system does not exist currently. This includes to

  • Set the mathematical basis for orbit calculation based on a network of multiple station.
  • To develop the appropriate acquisition and analysis procedures to use the observation data for orbit calculation.
  • Design the algorithms to solve the orbital parameters
  • Create a simulated environment (Digital Twin)
  • Test the setup
  • Expansion of the existing antenna network if necessary


Required skills

For the good realization of the project, it is recommended that the student have:
• General understanding of the orbital dynamics.
• Understanding in radar radio waves and RF physics
• Programming skills in Java or python
• Ability to appraise and adapt the project to fulfill the needs of the Space Domain
• A sense of responsibility to provide the work quality to be used for everyday applications

Place of work

The student will have the opportunity to work in a stimulating environment with other students in different locations (Lausanne, Bern, Zurich) in Switzerland depending on the needs of the projects.