Preventing Collisions Between Debris and Spacecraft


JAXA has published the following Q&A interview with  Mayumi Matsuura, the space agency’s space situation awareness (SSA) system project manager.

— What is the current state of space debris monitoring in Japan?

Kamisaibara Spaceguard Center (Credit: JAXA)

Space debris is monitored at the Kamisaibara Spaceguard Center and the Bisei Spaceguard Center, both in Okayama Prefecture. At Kamisaibara, we use radar to monitor debris in low Earth orbit (LEO) up to an altitude of approximately 2,000 km. Although the size of debris that can be monitored depends on its altitude, we can simultaneously track a total of 10 targets 1 meter or more in diameter. At Bisei, we use an optical telescope, which allows us to monitor debris in geostationary Earth orbit (GEO) at an altitude of 36,000 km.

JAXA analyzes data from these facilities to pinpoint debris orbit and position, and when this data and other inputs show that there is a possibility of debris colliding with satellites, a warning is issued to the satellite team. This is the role of the Space Tracking and Communications Center (STCC), where I work. To avoid being hit by debris, all you need to do is change your orbit, so the center prepares detailed proposals on when and how to do this. In some cases, debris is expected not to burn up on reentry into the atmosphere, but to fall back to Earth. In these situations, my job is to predict where it will reenter the atmosphere.
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Japanese Space Debris Removal Experiment Hits Snag

Electrodynamic tether deployed from cargo ship. (Credit: JAXA)

JAXA’s effort to test an electrodynamic tether (EDT) that could help clean up orbital space debris has hit a snag, Japanese media report.

The 700 meter (2,297 ft) long tether was to have deployed from the Kounotori resupply ship after it separated from the International Space Station on Jan. 27. However, JAXA says the tether, which had a mass on the end that weights about 20 kg (44 lb.), did not deploy as planned.

The agency planned to continue trying to try to deploy the tether through Saturday (today). The supply ship is scheduled to burn up in the Earth’s atmosphere on Monday.

The tether is designed to slow down a piece of debris by running an electrical current through it. The current will hasten the entry of the debris into the Earth’s atmosphere.

“JAXA plans to perform Kounotori Integrated Tether Experiments (KITE) in order to establish and demonstrate EDT technology and to obtain some EDT characteristics, such as tether deployment dynamics, and electron emission and collection in space plasma,” the space agency says on its website.

“KITE will help us identify the features and key technologies necessary to design and develop an EDT system as a method for improving space safety by removing large debris,” the website states.

Orbital Launch Statistics for 2016

The Soyuz MS-02 rocket is launched with Expedition 49 Soyuz commander Sergey Ryzhikov of Roscosmos, flight engineer Shane Kimbrough of NASA, and flight engineer Andrey Borisenko of Roscosmos, Wednesday, Oct. 19, 2016 at the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan. Ryzhikov, Kimbrough, and Borisenko will spend the next four months living and working aboard the International Space Station. (Credit: NASA/Joel Kowsky)
The Soyuz MS-02 rocket is launched with Expedition 49 Soyuz commander Sergey Ryzhikov of Roscosmos, flight engineer Shane Kimbrough of NASA, and flight engineer Andrey Borisenko of Roscosmos, Wednesday, Oct. 19, 2016 at the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan. (Credit: NASA/Joel Kowsky)

Part 2 of 2

There were 85 orbital launches in 2016, not including the Falcon 9 that exploded on launch pad prior to a pre-flight engine test. The launches break down as follow:

  • United States: 22 (22-0)
  • China: 22 (20-1-1)
  • Russia: 19 (18-1)
  • Europe: 9 (9-0)
  • India: 7 (7-0)
  • Japan: 4 (4-0)
  • Israel: 1 (1-0)
  • North Korea: 1 (1-0)

For a more detailed description of these launches, please read US, China Led World in Launches in 2016.

Let’s look at launches by booster and spaceport and the flights that were required for human spaceflight.
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USA, China Led World in Launches in 2016

A United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket carrying the OA-6 mission lifted off from Space Launch Complex 41. (Credit: ULA)
A United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket carrying the OA-6 mission lifted off from Space Launch Complex 41. (Credit: ULA)

Part 1 of 2

The United States and China led the world in orbital launch attempts in 2016 with 22 apiece. The combined 44 launches made up more than half of the 85 flights conducted around the world.

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Japanese Cargo Vehicle Arrives at ISS with NanoRacks Payloads

HTV-6 cargo ship approaches the International Space Station. (Credit: NASA)
HTV-6 cargo ship approaches the International Space Station. (Credit: NASA)

HOUSTON, December 13, 2016 (NanoRacks PR) – The Japanese Space Agency JAXA’s H-II Transfer Vehicle (HTV) cargo spacecraft successfully berthed to the International Space Station (ISS) on its sixth mission on Tuesday, December 13. The berthing occurred after a four-day flight to the station following the spacecraft’s launch Friday evening local time on an H-IIB rocket from the Yoshinobu Launch Complex at the Tanegashima Space Center. The cargo ship arrived with eight NanoRacks customer payloads on board.

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Japanese Cargo Ship Arrives at International Space Station

HTV-6 cargo ship approaches the International Space Station. (Credit: NASA)
HTV-6 cargo ship approaches the International Space Station. (Credit: NASA)

TOKYO, December 14, 2016 (JAXA PR) — The H-II Transfer Vehicle “KOUNOTORI6” (HTV6) started its final approach to the International Space Station (ISS), and was captured by the ISS robotic arm at 7:39 p.m. on December 13 (Japanese Standard Time, JST). Being captured and maneuvered by the robotic arm, the HTV6 was successfully berthed to the ISS at 3:24 a.m. on December 14 (JST).

Once after berthing of vehicle, the internal and external cargo will be unloaded by the on board crew.

You can find out more detailed information on the following Web site.
http://iss.jaxa.jp/en/htv/mission/htv-6/

Japan Launches Cargo Ship to Space Station

Credit: JAXA
Credit: JAXA

TOKYO (JAXA PR) — Mitsubishi Heavy Industries, Ltd. and the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) successfully launched the H-IIB Launch Vehicle No. 6 (H-IIB F6) with cargo transporter to the International Space Station, the H-II Transfer Vehicle “KOUNOTORI6” (HTV6) on board at 10:26:47 p.m. on December 9, 2016 (JST) from the Tanegashima Space Center.

The launch vehicle flew as planned, and at approximately 15 minutes and 11 seconds after liftoff, the separation of HTV6 was confirmed.

At the time of the launch,the weather was fine, the wind speed was 4.3 meters/second, from the north-west, and the temperature was 15.5 degrees Celsius.

Reference:
H-IIB Launch Vehicle No. 6 Flight Sequence (Quick Estimation)
http://global.jaxa.jp/press/2016/12/20161210_h2bf6.html#at

URL:
http://global.jaxa.jp/press/2016/12/20161210_h2bf6.html

 

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Another Year, Another Russian Launch Failure

The Progress 65 spacecraft is pictured at its launch pad Nov. 29 at the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan. (Credit: Roscosmos)
The Progress 65 spacecraft is pictured at its launch pad Nov. 29 at the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan. (Credit: Roscosmos)

They came so close this time.

In another four days, the Russians would have gone a full year without losing a spacecraft in a launch mishap. That’s something that hasn’t happened since 2009-10. In another 30 days, they would have gone an entire calendar year without a launch failure.

The loss of the Progress 65 cargo ship during its launch aboard a Soyuz-U rocket today marks the latest in a string of failures stretching back more than seven years. Since May 2009, Russia has suffered 13 launch failures and four partial failures involving its stable of satellite boosters. (See table below)

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Japan to Upgrade HTV Cargo Ship

HTV in flight (Credit: NASA)
HTV in flight (Credit: NASA)

JAXA is planning enhancements to its next generation HTV freighter, The Yomiuri Shimbun reports.

According to JAXA, the next-generation model currently in design — dubbed HTV-X — will be able to separate control systems units such as engines from its main body after docking at the ISS.

The engines will be equipped with observational devices so the spacecraft can leave the ISS and orbit as a satellite.

After that, the spacecraft itself will be used as an Earth observation satellite or to monitor space debris, which includes pieces of broken satellites. It will also be able to re-dock with the ISS.

JAXA is considering adding other functions, including for returning capsules containing experiment samples to Earth and connecting the spacecraft with a probe device to depart for other astronomical objects.

At the New Space Conference in June, NanoRacks Founder Jeffrey Manber said his company had signed a Space Act Agreement with NASA focused on using cargo ships for experiments and other uses after they leave the space station. I asked it about it after his talk, and he mentioned the HTV as one of the vehicles the company was looking to use.

Russia Led in Launch Successes and Failures in 2015

Flight VS13 was the 13th Soyuz liftoff performed from French Guiana since this vehicle’s 2011 introduction at the Spaceport. (Credit: Arianespace)
Flight VS13 was the 13th Soyuz liftoff performed from French Guiana since this vehicle’s 2011 introduction at the Spaceport. (Credit: Arianespace)

Russia continued its dominance of the global satellite launch industry in 2015, conducting 29 of 86 orbital launches over the past 12 months. It also maintained its lead in botched launches, suffering two failures and one partial failure.

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NanoRacks External Payload Platform Arrives at ISS

NanoRacks External Platform (Credit: Airbus Defence and Space)
NanoRacks External Platform (Credit: Airbus Defence and Space)
HOUSTON, August 24, 2015 (NanoRacks PR) – The fifth Japanese H-II Transfer Vehicle (HTV-5) successfully berthed with the International Space Station (ISS) this morning at 6:28 a.m. EST.

On board is the NanoRacks External Payload Platform (NREP) that will be externally mounted to the Station on the JEM facility, and expected to be permanently open for business in spring 2016.

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Japanese Cargo Ship Arrives at the Space Station

NASA PR — The Japanese Aerospace Exploration Agency’s (JAXA) “Kounotori” H-II Transfer Vehicle (HTV-5) arrived at the International Space Station Aug. 24 to deliver almost five tons of supplies and scientific experiments to the Expedition 44 crew. The cargo vehicle was launched atop a Japanese H-IIB rocket Aug. 19 from the Tanegashima Space Center in southern Japan.

Japanese Whisky Experiment Heads for Space Station

Suntory Whisky display. (Credit: Brian Adler)
Suntory Whisky display. (Credit: Brian Adler)

TOKYO (Suntory PR)–Suntory Global Innovation Center has embarked upon space experiments on the “development of mellowness in alcoholic beverage through the use of a microgravity environment.” This research will be conducted in the International Space Station’s Japanese Experiment Module (nicknamed “Kibo”), with the cooperation of the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA).

H-II Transfer Vehicle No. 5, commonly known as “Kounotori5” or HTV5, was launched on Wednesday from JAXA’s Tanegashima Space Center  carrying alcohol beverages produced by Suntory to the Japanese Experiment Module aboard the International Space Station, where experiments on the “development of mellowness” will be conducted for a period of about one year in Group 1 and for two or more years (undecided) in Group 2.

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NanoRacks External Platform, 16 CubeSats on Way to ISS

nano_racks_logo
WEBSTER, Texas (NanoRacks PR) — The NanoRacks External Payload Platform (NREP), manufactured by Airbus DS, and 16 customer CubeSats, were successfully launched to the International Space Station on Wednesday, August 19 via the fifth H-II Transfer Vehicle (HTV) Commercial Resupply Mission.

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Japanese Cargo Ship Blasts Off to Space Station

TANEGASHIMA SPACE CENTER, Japan (JAXA PR) — Mitsubishi Heavy Industries, Ltd. and the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency launched the H-IIB Launch Vehicle No.5 (H-IIB F5) with the KOUNOTORI5 (HTV5, a cargo transfer vehicle to the International Space Station) onboard at 8:50:49 p.m. on August 19 (Wed.) 2015 (Japan Standard Time, JST) from the Tanegashima Space Center.

The launch vehicle flew smoothly, and, at about 14 minutes and 54 seconds after liftoff, the separation of the KOUNOTORI5 was confirmed.

We would like to express our profound appreciation for the cooperation and support of all related personnel and organizations that helped contribute to the successful launch of the H-IIB F5.

At the time of the launch, the weather was fine, a wind speed was 3.5 meters/second from the south-south-east and the temperature was 27.8 degrees Celsius.