By Arnie CooperPosted 08.18.2009 at 10:44 am 4 Comments
Having scrubbed the notoriously squalid streets of Paris spotless, the French have set their sights on a bigger clean-up project: the expanding swarm of space debris circling the planet. French spaceflight engineer Brice Santerre of the European aerospace company EADS Astrium has constructed the Aerobraking Sail for bringing defunct satellites out of orbit.
When a satellite dies, the built-in braking system will deploy two inflatable booms, which release a pair of heat-resistant polymer "wings." The wings increase the friction drag that slows the satellite's orbit and allow gravity to tug it into the lower atmosphere, where it will burn up in 25 years instead of the typical 50 to 100, Santerre says.
Thousands of manmade pieces of space junk orbit the Earth, threatening astronauts and unmanned missions alike. Now the U.S. Air Force Space Command wants an electronic "space fence" that could track any orbital object larger than two inches in width.
Such a surveillance system would require a global network of sensitive S-band radar stations that operate in the gigahertz range of the electromagnetic spectrum. The U.S. Air Force currently relies on a system dating back to 1961, which only covers the continental United States, and can only track objects 20 inches in width or larger.
Look out! says NASA. Three crew members evacuated the International Space Station earlier today. What could have caused such action? Garbage. A 13-centimeter-wide piece of space junk was projected to come within 4.5 kilometers of the space station. Not willing to take any risks, NASA told the crew to jump ship.
A growing cloud of trash threatens space tourism and has experts scrambling to clear the mess
By Ker ThanPosted 06.27.2008 at 1:58 pm 9 Comments
Along with satellites and space stations, Earth is surrounded by tens of millions of pieces of floating space debris. Like any landfill, the trash is diverse, ranging from dead satellites to castaway rocket parts to flecks of paint. On average, over the past 40 years, one piece of space junk has fallen to Earth every day.
Our final frontier is also our final dumping grounds
By Matt RansfordPosted 04.21.2008 at 6:24 am 1 Comment
There is a scene in Dances with Wolves after Costner's character has arrived at the deserted Dakota base in which he discovers the company's garbage pile. He gives it a disappointing, scrutinizing look as he recognizes it's another harbinger of what is to come for the plains and its people. Fast forward 150 years to a different kind of frontier: space, in near-Earth orbit. There, we find a similar garbage pile, only this one is traveling at 30,000 miles per hour and threatens all the satellites and telescopes and space stations floating about.
By Gregory MonePosted 12.28.2007 at 11:17 am 11 Comments
NASA's Upper Atmosphere Research Satellite (UARS), an observatory that was launched in 1991 and decommissioned in 2005, may have collided with another large object in space, according to a report on LiveScienc
Astronaut Sally Ride worries that space-based military ops will create "space junk."
By Reed AlbergottiPosted 08.07.2002 at 12:59 pm 0 Comments
Hawks in the the Pentagon and other government agencies may have been elated when the Bush administration announced its plans to gear up for armed conflict in space, but former astronaut Sally Ride had a different reaction. She called the plans "disastrous," because destroying enemy satellites and other objects in space means creating more space debris.