Aside from a couple particularly nasty collisions, dead satellites comprise the bulk of our planet's space junk problem — as they die, get fried by radiation and become zombies, or are decommissioned, there's nowhere for them to go.
Talk about cloud computing. Google wants to install "InterPlanetary internet protocols" (IP IP?) on spacecraft, using them as an interwoven network of new space-based communication nodes.
That's according Google's Chief Internet Evangelist, Vint Cerf, in an interview with Network World. And this is not some pie-in-the-sky idea — they're already doing it.
Spanish robotics engineers have devised a new weapon in the battle against zombie-sats and space junk: an automated robotics system that employs computer vision technology and algorithmic wizardry to allow unmanned space vehicles to autonomously chase down, capture, and even repair satellites in orbit.
Remember that zombiesat that stopped taking commands from the ground last month? It's plodding toward its first potential victim, a television satellite called AMC-11. As a result that satellite's operator, SES World Skies, is choreographing an intricate, unprecedented orbital maneuver that will shift AMC-11 out of harm's way and bring in a second satellite behind the wandering Galaxy 15, which lost touch with handlers on Earth on April 5.
"A maneuver of this nature and complexity -- I'm not aware of anyone having done this before," the chief technology officer of SES told the BBC.
A solar storm that smashed into Earth on April 5 went largely unnoticed by most of us down here on the planet, but a group of engineers at satellite maker Orbital Sciences Corp. have been thinking about it ever since. That's the day Galaxy 15, one of their satellites owned by Intelsat, went radio silent. The satellite is still functioning, going about its daily chores of relaying signals around the globe, but Galaxy 15 is ignoring all commands from handlers on Earth, leading engineers to dub the renegade satellite a "zombiesat."