Adaptation of radio astronomy infrastructure for the detection and monitoring of space debris in low Earth orbit

Abstract: « Low frequency » (~100 MHz) radio astronomy has seen a resurgence in the last decade, with many new and refurbished instruments coming on-line. The principle goals of these instruments are to study astrophysical phenomena such as energetic explosions, merging black holes, and the first stars and galaxies. However these science goals have resulted in agile instruments with large fields of view and large fractional bandwidth, making them well suited to detect and monitor satellites and space debris in low Earth orbit. Of particular note is the Murchison Widefield Array (MWA), which has an all sky field of view, an 80-300 MHz observing band, and an entirely electronic pointing capability. When coupled with commercial FM radio transmitters around Australia that broadcast at 80-100MHz, the MWA can be used as the receiving station of a bistatic passive radar system. In this talk I will describe the hardware and software that we have developed to adapt the MWA to complement Australian Space Domain Awareness efforts.