The Daily Flash: Eco, Space, Science (16/2)
Astrobiology & the Future of Evolution -A Galaxy Insight

Catastrophic Communications Collision

Skylab2_crop_3 It' s finally happened: two satellites have slammed into each other at top speed, one and a half tons of orbital impact action and probably the most expensive recorded explosion not to star Will Smith.  A Russian satellite rammed a Department of Defense communications relay eight hundred kilometers over Siberia, and if this had happened forty years ago you'd be reading this on the DOS terminal in your nuclear fallout vault.

The defense satellite was an Iridium secure-phone relay, and when we say "was" we mean it - outer space collisions aren't slowed down by anything silly like friction and both satellites were utterly smithereenized.  Which means that this is only the start of the trouble: the communications crash fired an expensive-ex-satellite shrapnel shotgun right into the communications orbits around Earth. Thousands of pieces are expected, to joing the tens of thousands already up there.

These pieces are tracked by the US Space Surveillance Network and currently pose the largest risk to any manned shuttle flight. Understand: dropping soft squishy humans from three hundred and fifty kilometers straight up, with nothing but a small metal box and some ceramic to prevent them from burning/squishing/suffocating/being flayed alive at hypersonic speeds, is still safer than avoiding all the metal shrapnel we've studded the orbits our own planet with.

Experts have always know that this was going to happen, says Orbital Debris Scientist Mark Matney of Johnson space center.  Johnson space center certainly did because they actually have the job description "Orbital Debris Scientist."  This increasing problem motivates missions like the SNAP system, a UK nanosatellite designed to latch onto a dead satellites and pull them out of the way in a suicidal dive to burn up in the atmosphere.  Unfortunately the SNAP mission failed, ironically adding to the space-junk list instead of reducing it, but now no-one can ignore how the need for such systems is only increasing.

Posted by Luke McKinney.

2 big satellites collide

SNAP Suicidal Satellite Shifter


So, what I get from this article is, if I come up with a foolproof way to get rid of space junk, I can expect to be employed for quite some time?

Why don't the 4 leading space exploration nations agree upon a deal that if you shoot up any space/satelight options that there must be a backup small engine to bring it back down into atmospheric burnup prior to the satelight expiring? trying to think outside the box! Dah...

Craig, if it's cheap, repeatable and patentable you can expect to be employed, make millions and undoubtedly save lives.

We can't keep earth clean - so it's illogical to think man would keep space look at the mess....what a shame it is.......let's hope we don't colonize space anytime soon...not before man replaces ego and haphazzard exploration with respect and personal discipline for the environment in which we live and have our it earth or beyond.....

The real issue here is that thinking ahead doesn't make anyone any money. So these people put things into orbit for a 10 year life span, and after that they figure it's not their problem anymore.
We do the same thing here on Earth, but space is much less forgiving.


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