An ongoing experiment tests the mettle of glass and other materials
By Kaitlin MillerPosted 12.07.2011 at 10:05 am 2 Comments
High-energy radiation and atomic oxygen wreak havoc on satellite parts. To evaluate the durability of materials being developed for future satellites, the U.S. Naval Research Laboratory is running samples through a space-based torture test called MISSE-8. Astronauts bolted a platform full of one-inch samples of mirror coatings, laser-tuning crystals, structural foam and other materials to the outside of the International Space Station, where it will remain for just over two years.
When it comes to solving the growing space junk problem, solutions range from catching it in giant nets to blasting it from orbit with lasers--and these are DARPA’s and NASA’s best plans, respectively. By contrast, the Naval Research Laboratory has a scheme that seems much more feasible, though fraught with negative consequences: using a cloud of tungsten dust to create atmospheric drag at orbital altitudes, deorbiting the thousands of pieces of tiny space junk whirling about the heavens.