Space debris

Europeans Talk Space Debris, Agree They Need to Do Something

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Computer generated image showing the debris cloud around Earth.

ESA PR — Strong agreement was voiced on the need for Space Situational Awareness (SSA) by delegates representing a wide range of European-level and national stakeholders at an SSA seminar in Warsaw while exchanging views and ideas on the future direction of Europe’s capabilities.

As part of an extensive six-month programme of political, cultural and scientific initiatives during Poland’s tenure in the Presidency of the Council of the EU, the country’s Ministry of Economy hosted a special seminar devoted to Space Situational Awareness (SSA) on 29 September in Warsaw.

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NRC: NASA Needs Plan as Orbital Debris Threat Reaches “Tipping Point”

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NRC PR – WASHINGTON – Although NASA’s meteoroid and orbital debris programs have responsibly used their resources, the agency’s management structure has not kept pace with increasing hazards posed by abandoned equipment, spent rocket bodies, and other debris orbiting the Earth, says a new report by the National Research Council. NASA should develop a formal strategic plan to better allocate resources devoted to the management of orbital debris. In addition, removal of debris from the space environment or other actions to mitigate risks may be necessary.

The complexity and severity of the orbital debris environment combined with decreased funding and increased responsibilities have put new pressures on NASA, according to the report. Some scenarios generated by the agency’s meteoroid and orbital debris models show that 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 report notes. In addition, collisions with debris have disabled and even destroyed satellites in the past; a recent near-miss of the International Space Station underscores the value in monitoring and tracking orbital debris as precisely as possible.

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WikiLeaks Reveals Sino-American Tensions Over Satellite Knockdowns as U.S. Mulls Pact

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Here’s some hair-raising news on the space weapons/debris front:

The United States threatened to take military action against China during a secret “star wars” arms race within the past few years, according to leaked documents obtained by The Daily Telegraph.

The two nuclear superpowers both shot down their own satellites using sophisticated missiles in separate show of strength, the files suggest.

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NASA Looks at How to Clean Up Debris in LEO

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NASA Spaceflight.com has a report about a NASA study looking at how to clean up LEO:

A study into Active Debris Removal (ADR) has begun laying the foundations of a long term project to remove large pieces of orbital debris from space. The effort, which may grow into an international project, aims to eventually remove around five large pieces of debris – such as the numerous spent Upper Stages from Russian vehicles – per year.

ADR is being tasked with the removal of far larger pieces of debris, and from a higher altitude than that which the ISS and orbiters transit in….

At five objects per year, ADR wouldn’t be short of targets, with over 270 spent upper stages from the Russian SL vehicle alone, all running around in an orbit of between 600 and 1000 km.

Read the full story.

Space Review: The Destroy Everything Edition

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A Titan rocket explodes just after liftoff. (Credit: USAF)

A Titan rocket explodes just after liftoff. Not a good day for the Air Force. (Credit: USAF)

This week in The Space Review

  • HLV! HLV! What is it good for? Absolutely nothing! Say it again! That is basically Lou Friedman’s view of the job creating, budget busting heavy-lift vehicle that Congress has thrust upon a reluctant NASA.
  • Todd Neff looks at the vastly over budget and behind schedule James Webb Space Telescope, which threatens to scuttle and delay other valuable projects.
  • Jeff Foust reports on some the measures the US and other countries can take to make sure orbital debris, satellite collisions, and anti-satellite weapons don’t destroy space as a useful place to visit and do work.
  • Jeff Foust reviews a book by an astronomer who helped to obliterate Pluto’s status as a planet.
  • Dwayne Day continues his look at the long-since-canceled and little mourned TV show “Defying Gravity,” ABC’s valiant effort to wipe out the space science fiction genre once and for all.

CSA Joins in Space Debris Group

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CSA PRESS RELEASE
Nov. 24, 2010

The Canadian Space Agency (CSA) has been accepted as a full member of the Inter-Agency Space Debris Coordination Committee (IADC). This committee is an international governmental forum for the worldwide coordination of activities related to the issues of man-made and natural debris in space.

The primary purposes of the IADC are to exchange information on space debris research activities between member space agencies, to facilitate opportunities for cooperation in space debris research, to review the progress of ongoing cooperative activities, and to identify debris mitigation options. Being a member of this committee will provide the CSA with access to the latest research and activities related to space debris issues by the international members of the committee in order to mitigate and minimize potential threats to Canadian satellites and other space assets.  It will also permit a strengthening of Canadian research activities into space debris related activities through enhanced cooperation with international partners.

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Energia Wants to Spend $1.9 Billion on Orbital Pod to Clean Up Space Debris

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Some interesting news via the Chinese Xinhua news agency that RSC Energia plans to build a nuclear-power “orbital pod” to clean up space debris. The details include:

  • cost: 600 billion rubles ($1.9 billion USD)
  • cleanup 600 satellites by dropping them in the ocean over 10 years
  • begin operations by 2023
  • 15 year lifespan.

The report also indicates that Energia has been developing plans for a “space interceptor designed to destroy dangerous space objects heading toward the Earth.” These presumably would be near Earth objects.

As with many Russian projects, it’s not clear if there is money available or this is a proposal looking for funding.

Canada Prepares for Possible Conflicts in Space

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Space may be first frontier for the next major conflict: Canadian official
Toronto Star

It won’t look like a scene from Star Wars, but the man in charge of space development for the defence department predicts the initial steps of the next major conflict are more than likely to start in orbit and Canada should be prepared.

“The first line in the sand for the next major conflict may very well be in space or cyberspace, but probably not on the ground or in the air or in the seas,” Dupuis said in an interview while attending the annual conference of the Canadian Space Society.

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SSI Space Manufacturing 14: Engineering Non-Terrestrial Resources

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Miners hoping to strike it rich during the California Gold Rush at Auburn Ravine in 1852. (Credit: California State Library)

Session 5: Engineering Materials from Non-Terrestrial Resources
Chair: Dr. Peter J. Schubert

Electrical Energy Storage Using Only Lunar Materials
Dave Dietzler, and Dr. Peter J. Schubert, Packer Engineering Inc.

In-Situ Production of Construction Materials by Combustion of Regolith/Aluminum and Regolith/Magnesium Mixtures
Prof. Evgeny Shafirovich, Christopher White and Francisco Alvarez, University of Texas at El Paso

Electro Dynamic Debris Eliminator (EDDE) Opens LEO for Aluminum Recovery and Reuse
Jerome Pearson, John Oldson and Dr. Eugene Levin, Star Technology and Research, Inc., Joseph Carroll, Tether Applications, Inc.

Building a Vertical Take Off and Landing Pad Using In Situ Materials
Dr. Paul Hintze, NASA Kennedy Space Center
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Secure World Foundation Tackled Space Debris, Policy Issues During IAC

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SWF PRESS RELEASE

Nearly 3,000 experts from around the globe met at the 61st International Astronautical Congress (IAC) to discuss every facet of 21st century space activity.

Held in Prague, Czech Republic from September 27-October 1, the meeting’s theme was “Space for human benefit and exploration” with Secure World Foundation (SWF) taking a leading role in furthering the dialogue on a wide-range of space issues.

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