SMART-L MM radar follows SpaceX launch from Hengelo!

March 05, 2019

Written by

Rogier Noorland

Systems Architect IAMD at Thales Netherlands

This Saturday morning I cycled to Thales NL for a Space mission.

Today is the day for the SpaceX Demonstration Mission 1. This is the first orbital flight of the new Dragon 2 spacecraft. This spacecraft will test the approach and automated docking procedures with the ISS in preparation for the first manned mission later this year.

So why go to Thales you might ask? Because we are going to use our SMART-L Multi Mission radar to autonomously search, detect and track the Dragon 2 spacecraft.

After powering up the SMART-L MM we set the desired operational mode. Now all we could do is wait and watched the live broadcast of the launch.

We already did our mission planning up front so had a general idea when the Dragon would come into our reach. About 20 minutes after launch it was time. The tension went up and me and my colleagues where anxiously watching the screen.

Luckily we didn't have to wait long. The SMART-L MM picked up the Dragon while still flying far out over the Atlantic ocean. It continued to track the spacecraft for more then 7 minutes while it flew over, Ireland, UK, France and all the way up to Serbia until it disappeared behind the horizon. Mission accomplished!!!

It was a big day for SpaceX but for us just another day at the office at Thales.

Article from

The Dutch website has devoted a nice and extensive article to this special moment. You can read the whole article by clicking here!

Unfortunately the article is in Dutch, but on a later notice an English translation will be available.