Space debris could be nudged out of the way using a moderately sized Earth-based laser, a team of NASA researchers suggests in a new paper. The laser wouldn’t blast the debris to smithereens, but combined with a ground-based telescope, it could be used to move space junk into a different orbit so it would not collide with other debris or important spacecraft.
The proliferation of space debris surrounding our planet isn't just a theoretical problem--flying extraterrestrial garbage can cause damage to satellites, manned and unmanned space missions, and even the International Space Station.
The burgeoning problem of space debris and the threat it presents to satellites, manned space mission, and occasionally the International Space Station is no secret to those following the headlines coming out of low Earth orbit. But though the threat is real, the problem receives little public visibility.
Hare-brained schemes for cleaning up space debris have been batted around for some time, but Russia has finally put some money down on a real project. Russia's space corporation, Energia, is going to invest $2 billion to build a space pod to fly around and knock the junk out of orbit and out of our way.
It's getting to be real crowded up there. Today, Russian aerospace authorities had to shift the orbit of the International Space Station to get it out of the way of a piece of hurtling debris.
A similar maneuver was planned just a couple of months ago when a piece of China's Feng Yun satellite threatened the station. This time, the junk is American, a piece of UARS.
China has never been particularly apologetic about its contribution to the looming threat of space debris, but authorities might finally have to offer up some kind of conciliatory “sorry we nearly bombed your village with huge chunks of used rocket.” Last night residents of two separate villages in Jiangxi, China, awoke to very large pieces of the lunar probe Chang’e II’s launch rocket falling back to Earth around them.
A massive collection of spacecraft parts, dead satellites, and spent rocket stages circle high above the Earth in a sort of “floating landfill.” According to recent estimates, about 4 million pounds of space junk currently orbit the Earth, including some 20,000 pieces of debris larger than 10 centimeters.
DARPA has a thing for butterfly tech. Last week it was sensors based on butterfly wings. This week, it's a space junk capturing vehicle armed with 200 nets that gathers space garbage, much as a lepidopterist would net butterflies for a specimen collection. The technology was presented on Friday at the annual Space Elevator conference.
NASA has been tracking a piece of space junk on course for a near collision with the International Space Station this week, but while the agency continues to monitor the debris -- a leftover from China's brilliant shooting down of the Fengyun 1C weather satellite during a missile test in 2007 -- Russian Flight Control authorities have issued an all-clear, saying an avoidance maneuver will not be necessary.
This month, NASA's Orbital Debris Program Office released data naming the top ten incidents contributing to the space junk problem. The Fengyun fiasco is hands down the largest single contributor to the growing space junk crisis. NASA has identified some 19,000 objects larger than four inches that are running loose in orbit at extremely high rates of speed just waiting for a functioning satellite, a spacecraft, or the ISS to get in their paths. Of those, 2,841 are thought to have come from the destruction of Fengyun 1C.
In orbit, debris as small as a metal screw can cripple a vehicle or kill an astronaut. Here are five ideas for cleaning up the growing band of trash circling Earth
By David KushnerPosted 07.13.2010 at 10:05 am 1 Comment
One Friday last November, the six astronauts onboard the International Space Station received an urgent warning from mission control: Watch out for space junk. A piece of orbital debris, possibly a chunk of satellite, was hurtling toward the station. A direct hit could break through the hull. The crew prepped for escape.