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Space Junk at Dangerous 'tipping Point': Study 

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Old 09-03-2011, 01:48 AM
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Space Junk at Dangerous 'tipping Point': Study

WASHINGTON (AFP) - Clouds of space junk orbiting the Earth have reached a dangerous "tipping point", threatening to smash satellites and endanger astronauts, US scientists warned in a study this week.

"The current space environment is growing increasingly hazardous to spacecraft and astronauts," said Donald Kessler, chair of the committee that wrote the report and retired head of NASA's Orbital Debris Program Office.

"NASA needs to determine the best path forward for tackling the multifaceted problems caused by meteoroids and orbital debris that put human and robotic space operations at risk."

NASA is currently tracking over 22,000 pieces of debris and estimates there are millions more that are too small to track.

Among those are at least 500,000 particles of up to 10 centimeters (four inches) in diameter, which can still cause damage when traveling at such high speeds.

Computer models have shown that the "debris has reached a 'tipping point,' with enough currently in orbit to continually collide and create even more debris, raising the risk of spacecraft failures," the National Research Council said in a statement Thursday.

Efforts to limit the amount of space debris suffered a major setback in 2007 when China tested its anti-satellite missiles on a weather satellite which was blown to pieces.

More debris was formed two years later when two satellites accidentally collided in orbit.

Cleaning up the spent rockets and abandoned equipment is not simply costly -- it is also complicated by the fact that the United States is prohibited by international law from collecting objects belonging to other nations.

"The Cold War is over, but the acute sensitivity regarding satellite technology remains," explained committee vice chair George Gleghorn, former vice president and chief engineer for the TRW Space and Technology Group.
The 160-page report recommends that NASA engages the State Department's help in sorting out the "economic, technological, political, and legal considerations."

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Old 09-03-2011, 08:17 AM
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Re: Space Junk at Dangerous 'tipping Point': Study


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Old 09-04-2011, 08:58 AM
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Re: Space Junk at Dangerous 'tipping Point': Study

http://www.aero.org/support/video/space-debris.mov

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Old 09-04-2011, 09:53 AM
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Re: Space Junk at Dangerous 'tipping Point': Study

another nice article

Quote:
the amount of junk in space is rising exponentially, with continuous collisions between abandoned equipment, spent rockets and other debris creating ever growing clouds of dangerous fragments, an influential report warned on Thursday.

The report, commissioned by Nasa, says the quantity of hazardous material circling the Earth has reached a "tipping point" and poses a real and increasing danger to satellites and the International Space Station.

It suggests developing a clean-up strategy, which could include catching debris with nets, magnets or giant umbrellas.

The US National Research Council was asked to review the space agency's meteoroid and orbital debris programmes last April following a request from the White House. Meteoroids are particles or larger lumps of rock in the solar system.

"The current space environment is growing increasingly hazardous to spacecraft and astronauts," said Donald Kessler, chair of the committee responsible for the report and a retired head of Nasa's orbital debris programme.

"Nasa needs to determine the best path forward for tackling the multifaceted problems caused by meteoroids and orbital debris that put human and robotic space operations at risk."

While the report, Limiting future collision risk to spacecraft, found Nasa had used available resources wisely, the authors raised concerns that the agency's programmes had no overall management or budget and that most programmes were run by one person, making them vulnerable to staff changes.

Objects in space ranging from the huge upper stages of Russian rockets to tiny particles of liquid coolant are tracked by ground based radars operated by Nasa and other space agencies. About half a million fragments and objects larger than a centimetre are in low orbit around Earth. There are tens of millions of particles larger than a millimetre.

Even minuscule specks of debris can cause serious damage to spacecraft and satellites because of the immense speeds at which they travel.

"The average impact velocity is 10km per second," Kessler told the Guardian. "And at 2km per second, the energy of the collision is equivalent to the particle's mass in TNT."

The potential threat from space debris became more pressing after China destroyed an orbiting weather satellite with a missile in 2007 as part of an anti-satellite test, and two satellites collided over Siberia in 2009.

These events more than doubled the amount of catalogued fragmentation debris in space, which had remained almost constant for the previous 20 years.

The report adds that Nasa may have to launch operations to remove space junk from orbit, or find other ways to reduce the dangers posed by debris.

Since the Nasa space shuttle was retired, there are no tried and tested means to remove defunct satellites and other space junk from orbit.

Several companies and agencies are exploring ways to clean up the space environment, with techniques that range from capturing the junk in lightweight nets to launching probes that latch on to debris and steer it into the atmosphere, where it will burn up.

Any programme aimed at removing space junk is likely to face serious legal hurdles, because current principles restrict countries to salvaging only their own objects. Nasa estimates that about 30% of space junk can be attributed to the United States.

In anticipation of future clean-up operations, 12 countries, including the UK, set up the Inter-Agency Space Debris Co-ordination Committee in 1993 to oversee the programme.

"The cold war is over, but the acute sensitivity regarding satellite technology remains," said George Gleghorn, the report's co-author and chief engineer for the TRW Space and Technology Group.

Although Nasa had identified the need for removing debris, the agency and US government had not fully examined the economic, technological, political and legal considerations, the report added.

"The longer you wait to do this the more expensive it's going to be. Given the economy, we'll probably end up putting it off, but that's really not very wise. This scenario of increasing space debris will play out even if we don't put anything else in orbit," Kessler said.

Satellite and spacecraft manufacturers routinely build additional shields to protect against debris strikes, but there is a trade-off between safety and weight.

The International Space Station (ISS) has shields designed to withstand strikes from centimetre-sized objects, but satellites are less well protected.

Mission controllers can alter the orbits of the ISS and some satellites to avoid collisions, but this is not always effective.

In 2009, satellite operators might have been able to prevent the satellite collision over Siberia, but the defunct Russian Cosmos satellite involved was ranked 16th on a list of objects the US Iridium satellite was most likely to strike.

"Any avoidance move would have been to avoid something else," Kessler said.
http://www.guardian.co.uk/science/20...entially-earth

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Old 09-04-2011, 09:59 AM
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Re: Space Junk at Dangerous 'tipping Point': Study

Nice post

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Old 09-04-2011, 10:09 PM
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Re: Space Junk at Dangerous 'tipping Point': Study

Not only have humans polluted earth but space as well. Well done

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Old 09-04-2011, 10:11 PM
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Re: Space Junk at Dangerous 'tipping Point': Study

good post

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Old 09-04-2011, 11:58 PM
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Re: Space Junk at Dangerous 'tipping Point': Study

Quote:
Originally Posted by Blewvane View Post
Cleaning up the spent rockets and abandoned equipment is not simply costly -- it is also complicated by the fact that the United States is prohibited by international law from collecting objects belonging to other nations.
This is what i don't believe. Maybe we should threaten to issue huge fines to the countries that have left their junk up there, then let's sit back and see how precious their space junk is to them.

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