Space debris

Europeans Talk Space Debris, Agree They Need to Do Something


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”


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


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


NASA 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

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


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


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


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


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



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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International Space Debris Committee Meets in Prague



An annual meeting of the International Space Debris Committee took place at the International Astronautical Congress 2010 in Prague. Russia is represented in the Committee by Yury Makarov, Head of Roscosmos Division.

“The International Committee which meets annually comprises 4 working groups. Each group also hold their meetings to discuss different relevant topics, including debris monitoring, avoidance, prediction of hazardous situations, etc. Then, the groups report to the Control Board of the Committee,” Makarov explains.

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State Department Begins Implementing U.S. National Space Policy

Implementing the National Space Policy:
Opportunities and Challenges
Frank A. Rose
Deputy Assistant Secretary, Bureau of Verification, Compliance, and Implementation
Remarks at the Fifth Annual National Space Forum
Arlington, VA
September 20, 2010

Thank you, Ambassador Harrison, for your kind introduction. It is a pleasure to see you and our other distinguished speakers and attendees at this conference, the Eisenhower Center’s fifth annual National Space Forum.

I am pleased to be able to join you here today to discuss the new U.S. National Space Policy. As you all know, the policy was released in late June, and we are now actively engaged in its implementation.

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Augustine, Chilton Urge International Action on Space Debris



A pair of leading space figures have weighed in on the growing problem of space debris. Reuters reports:

World powers must find ways to reduce the amount of debris in orbit, as the collision risk it poses to spacecraft is increasing, the head of the U.S. Strategic Command said on Wednesday.

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Orbital Debris Solution: Tax Satellite Operators to Create Recycling and Removal Fund


James Dunstan and Berin Szoka published an op-ed piece in Forbes recently in which they proposed an interesting solution to the growing problem of orbital debris:

Space-faring nations should create an Orbital Debris Removal and Recycling Fund (ODRRF). Satellite operators would pay relatively small fees to their governments, who would contribute the money to the fund. These governments already charge satellite operators large licensing and regulatory fees. Private companies would be paid bounties out of the fund for successfully removing debris according to the debris-creation-avoidance value assigned to each object. Apart from the obvious long-term benefits of preserving the usability of the space environment, satellite operators would benefit in the short term from reduced insurance rates and fewer mysterious satellite outages caused by collisions we cannot track. With the right funding mechanism, entrepreneurs can solve this problem. Governments must encourage innovation rather than crippling industry or creating yet another large government program to build and operate systems when the expertise for doing so clearly resides in the private sector.

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NASA, DARPA Look at Orbital Debris Removal

Computer generated image showing the debris cloud around Earth.

Computer generated image showing the debris cloud around Earth.

Military agency studying space garbage service
Spaceflight Now

The Pentagon’s research and development division is studying concepts to remove dangerous space debris from orbit, an endeavor long dismissed as too costly but potentially feasible with technology advancements.

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