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Space Junk

The ESA has been testing the possibility of using one of mankind's earliest inventions to cope with one of its newest challenges, by testing a concept that would allow satellites to net and de-orbit space debris in a safe and controlled manner. Space debris is an ever-increasing problem, and agencies around the world are starting to take steps to preserve the low-Earth orbit environment vital for a sustainable space industry. Read More
Ground was broken at the future six-acre (2.4-hectare) site of the new Space Fence radar system in a special ceremony last month on Kwajalein Atoll in the Marshall Islands. The ceremony marked the official start of construction of the system that will replace the Air Force Space Surveillance System (AFSSS) in tracking objects in orbit, including commercial and military satellites and debris from collisions. Read More
Key orbits frequented by GPS and communications satellites are becoming more and more hazardous, as man-made debris presents an increasingly palpable danger to the valuable assets orbiting at heights of around 2,000 km (1,243 miles) above the Earth. That' s why the European Space Agency (ESA) is hosting an international workshop geared towards cleaning up low-Earth orbit, with a focus on how to make the space industry more sustainable. Read More
Gripping technology inspired by the force that geckos use to climb even vertical, smooth surfaces has been tested in microgravity. Researchers want to see if it might one day be used to get work done in outer space, and clean up the increasing amount of debris floating in orbit around the Earth. Read More
In order to dodge something, you need to see it. If that something is space debris then sometimes the best thing to use is an old-fashioned telescope – or, in the case of the US Department of Defense, a state-of-the-art telescope capable of searching an area larger than the United States in seconds. That’s why DARPA is preparing to deliver the new Space Surveillance Telescope (SST) to Western Australia, where it will help track small satellites and space debris orbiting the Earth when it becomes operational in 2016. Read More
Back in the 1970s, there was a short-lived sitcom called Quark about an outer space rubbish collector. What was played for laughs back then may soon be a reality with the announcement that Ecole polytechnique federale de Lausanne (EPFL) and Swiss Space Systems (S3) have formed a partnership to launch the CleanSpace One satellite into orbit to collect space debris using a launch system that promises to be cheaper than using conventional techniques. Read More
Julie McEnery is NASA's Project Scientist for the Fermi Gamma-ray Space Telescope. When she checked her email on March 29, 2012, she was startled to find an automatically generated message stating that in six days, her half-billion-plus dollar satellite was going to cross paths with Cosmos 1805, a Soviet-era spy satellite. The predicted encounter had the two satellites occupying the same coordinates only 30 milliseconds apart. Not only that, but Cosmos was in an orbit moving nearly perpendicular to Fermi such that their collision would be equivalent to tons of high explosives. Essentially total destruction. Read More
In response to the rapidly increasing danger from space debris, a new system called the "Space Fence" has been under development. It would replace the 50-year-old Air Force Space Surveillance System (AFSSS) with a system of highly-sensitive phased array S-band tracking radars. Prototype "Space Fence" systems able to detect and track objects ten times smaller than those that can be detected by the AFSSS have been demonstrated by Raytheon and by Lockheed Martin. The USAF will now choose between construction and installation proposals submitted from both companies for building the new US$3.3 billion (est.) Space Fence, to be operational by 2017. Read More
Orbital debris is (nearly) forever, and threatens to render near-Earth space unusable, and all but impassible. The 2007 Chinese anti-satellite test and an accidental collision between two communications satellites in 2009 highlighted the need to study orbital collisions of modern satellites. The NASA Standard Breakup Model, based on hypervelocity collision studies of 1960s-era satellites, fails to accurately describe collisions of modern satellites, owing to advances made in materials and construction. To address this problem, NASA is updating the SBM by building and destroying a modern dummy satellite called DebriSat. Read More
Boeing has filed a patent for a method of disposing of dead satellites and other debris orbiting the earth by hitting them with a puff of gas. The method, which is still at the conceptual stage, is designed to slow down satellites, forcing them to re-enter the atmosphere without sending up more space junk that itself will need disposing of. Read More
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