Space Junk Is Causing Problems — And Experts Think It’s Just The Start. Why It Matters

High above the surface of our blue and green planet, millions of pieces of space debris zoom through Earth’s orbit at thousands of miles an hour. NASA defines orbital debris as human-made objects in orbit that no longer serve a purpose, like a dead satellite. “The congestion worsens each year,” NASA’s Orbital Debris Program Office says.

As space debris increases, scientists are worried about collisions that could eventually clog up Earth’s orbit, posing a threat to astronauts, space missions and other satellites, according to NASA.

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Spanish Company Successfully Launches Reusable Rocket

Spain’s PLD Space successfully launched the country’s first reusable rocket on Saturday, after two previously scrubbed attempts.

Read more at: CNN


Ammonia Leak On Russian Section Of International Space Station ‘Has Now Ceased,’ But Astronauts Remain Cautious

On Wednesday (Oct. 11), a coolant leak on a Russian module of the International Space Station (ISS) appears to have stopped two days after being discovered, NASA wrote in a blog post.

Space station astronauts were “never in any danger” due to the ammonia leak that began on Monday (Oct. 9), NASA officials said. Still, the space agency has postponed two previosuly scheduled spacewalks on Oct. 12 and Oct. 20, while NASA engineers continue to review the situation. (Ammonia is so toxic that spacewalks nearby the substance must have extra precautions built in to reduce exposure risk to astronauts.)

Read more at: livescience

NASA Alarmed to See Flakes Drifting Past Space Station Window

The International Space Station’s Russian segment has sprung yet another leak — the third in less than a year — raising urgent questions about the reliability of the country’s space program. The leak was traced back to an 11-year-old backup radiator circuit installed on Russia’s Nauka module, according to a Telegram update by Russia’s space agency Roscosmos.

As the drama unfolded, NASA ground control in Houston had a troubling question for crew members on board the orbital outpost.

“Hi, we’re seeing flakes outside, we need a crew to go to the cupola, we think windows five or six, and confirm any visual flakes,” mission control told astronauts on the US segment on Monday, as quoted by Agence France-Presse.

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Scientists Find Proof Of Unprecedented Sun Explosion Hitting Earth

Our mild-mannered sun is capable of some mighty solar explosions. Fortunately for us, Earth’s atmosphere and magnetic field protect our bodies from such solar radiation, but our technology — namely electrical grids and communication networks — can be severely or catastrophically damaged by solar outbursts.

In a salient warning for the techno-future, scientists have found evidence of the “biggest ever identified,” solar storm, an event that occurred 14,300 years ago, back when saber-toothed cats still roamed present-day Los Angeles. This scale of storm is known as a “Miyake Event,” wherein the sun blasts out immense amounts of solar particles and radiation into space towards Earth’s atmosphere. Ultimately, this solar blast triggers a big spike in a type of element, called radiocarbon, which is stored in Earth’s tree rings.

Read more at: Mashable

NASA Warns We’ll Have 30 Minutes Before Mega Solar Storm Hits Earth Wiping Out Electronics Across Half Of Globe

NASA has been working on a warning system to notify humans before a solar storm hits Earth. Using artificial intelligence technology, Nasa has been trying to gather data on solar storms, according to a 2022 study.

The space agency has been working on this to develop an early warning system that could give Earth a 30-minute notice before a storm hits.

Dubbed Dagger, the AI could help us predict when a solar storm forms by looking at data provided by satellites.

Several satellites have observed our Sun over the years, including the ACE, Wind, IMP-8, and Geotail.

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How To Avoid “Zombie” Satellites Causing Atmospheric Destruction? Send Them To This Ocean Graveyard

In the U.S., the average person produces 4.9 pounds of trash a day. Multiply that by a population that has been steadily increasing for centuries, and the amount of garbage circulating within our planet quickly reaches astronomical proportions. A sunset stroll on many beaches around the world accompanied by the sound of crunching microplastics underfoot will reveal just how adept humans are at finding ways to dispose of their waste.

The trash problem here on Earth is at crisis proportions, and as we continue to expand our presence in the solar system, we’re bringing our trash problem with us, threatening to bleed out far past the Earth’s atmosphere. Since space exploration began in the 1950s, countries have deployed thousands of satellites, rockets and spacecraft.

Read more at: Salon

AI-Powered Lasers: A Modern Solution to Space Debris

West Virginia University is researching the use of AI-powered space lasers to redirect space debris, reducing collision risks. Supported by NASA, the initiative aims to tackle debris of all sizes and is currently validating its algorithms and models.

If research pays off, debris that litters the planet’s orbit and poses a threat to spacecraft and satellites could get nudged off potential collision courses by a coordinated network of space lasers.

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Fighting Space Debris

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) of the United States, has for the first time imposed a fine on a company for failing to properly deorbit a communication satellite as committed, marking a significant step in space pollution regulation. The satellite in question, EchoStar-7, was launched in 2002 for Dish, a television broadcasting company. Like many other communication satellites, it was originally placed in a geostationary orbit at an altitude of 36,000 kilometers, where it remains stationary relative to a point on Earth. At the time of the launch, there were no regulations in place mandating the deorbiting of such satellites at the end of their operational life.

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Debris-Removal Contenders Hit Design Milestone For Double-Satellite Mission

The two contenders hoping the U.K. chooses them to de-orbit a pair of derelict satellites in 2026 with a single robotic spacecraft have finished the system requirements review for their mission.

The British subsidiary of Japan’s Astroscale announced Oct. 10 it had completed this early phase of the mission after meeting the UK Space Agency (UKSA) in August, when technical requirements that include the initial design of a robotic arm were reviewed.

Switzerland-based ClearSpace’s U.K. unit said in June it had completed its system requirements review — a key milestone in a satellite development phase where a spacecraft’s functionality, design, and operational objectives are examined.

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It’s Time To Start Worrying About Space Junk Around The Moon, Too

It’s getting crowded up there. An increase in military, commercial and scientific launches, coupled with a lower cost for rideshare cubesat launches, means lots more space junk to deal with in coming years. And we’re not just talking about low Earth orbit; the moon and cis-lunar (near lunar space) is about to become busy as well.

While we track and understand (for the most part) what’s in low Earth orbit (LEO), we often fail to keep tabs on what’s in Medium- to High- (Geostationary/Geosynchronous GEO) orbit and beyond. Even less so is true around the moon, which is about to become a busy place in coming years. Now, a recent study out of Purdue University is looking to model and track space debris around the moon, with an eye towards mitigation.

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Billionaire Space Race: Can Bezos’s Project Kuiper Catch Up To Musk’s Starlink?

You’re a mega-billionaire. You already own one of the world’s most influential social media platforms, and dominate more than half of the US electric car market. You are regularly named as one of the world’s most influential people. You’ve had your hairline sorted, you’ve already had 11 children, so what do you do next?

For Elon Musk, the answer is: attempt to dominate space.

So far the effort is going well. SpaceX, the company Musk founded in 2002, has launched more than 4,500 Starlink satellites in the past five years, accounting for more than 50% of all active satellites orbiting the Earth.

Read more at: Guardian

SpaceX has made a mysterious new regulatory filing for 29,888 satellites, possibly in an attempt to secure more radio spectrum to upgrade Starlink.The company submitted the filing to the International Telecommunications Union (ITU), a worldwide regulator that oversees radio frequency allocation for satellite providers. The submission covers 29,988 satellites across 288 orbital planes for altitudes ranging between 350 and 614 kilometers, according to Space Intel Report, which was first to report the news.

Read more at: PCmag

The Accidental Monopoly

Rocket Lab had been on an upwards trajectory for the first eight and a half months of the year. The company conducted its first Electron launches from Launch Complex 2 on Wallops Island, Virginia, and flew a new suborbital version of the rocket, called HASTE, to tap into the hypersonics testing market. The company was planning to fly up to 15 Electrons in 2023, compared to nine in 2022. It also made strides toward its goal of reusing the Electron first stage, such as flying a reused Rutherford engine.

But, as many in the launch industry often say, you’re only as good as your most recent launch. On Sept. 19, those plans came plummeting back to Earth — literally.

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Oops—It Looks Like The Ariane 6 Rocket May Not Offer Europe Any Launch Savings

Nearly a decade ago, the European Space Agency announced plans to develop the next generation of its Ariane rocket, the Ariane 6 booster. The goal was to bring a less costly workhorse rocket to market that could compete with the likes of SpaceX’s Falcon 9 booster and begin flying by 2020.

It has been well documented that development of the Ariane 6 is running years behind—the vehicle is now unlikely to fly before the middle of 2024 and subject to further delays. For example, a critical long-duration hot fire of the vehicle’s Vulcain 2.1 main engine had been scheduled for “early October,” but there have been no recent updates on when this key test will occur.

Read more at: Arstechnica

SpaceX has launched a new website dedicated to promoting its upcoming Starlink service for mobile phones.On Tuesday night, the company debuted the “Starlink Direct to Cell” page with the tagline: “Seamless access to text, voice, and data for LTE phones across the globe.”The system will tap the growing Starlink satellite network in Earth’s orbit to beam cellular connectivity to unmodified smartphones. A year ago, SpaceX originally said it was hoping to launch the service later this year with partner T-Mobile. But since then, the company has been mum on the progress.

Read more at: pcmag

Amazon’s Project Kuiper Satellites Add To Astronomers’ Light-Pollution Woes

Amazon is set to launch two satellite prototypes for its Project Kuiper network, which will eventually number more than 3,200 orbiters. Project Kuiper could become a rival to SpaceX’s Starlink constellation, which is now nearly 4,800 strong. Amazon’s launch is planned for 2 pm Eastern time today, with a backup launch window tomorrow. This rapid growth of the satellite industry has come at a cost for astronomers and fans of the night sky, as two new studies and panels at an international astronomy conference stressed this week.

All spacecraft in low-Earth orbit reflect sunlight, and some glint enough to be visible to the naked eye—artificial constellations that compete with stellar ones. Satellites can cause problems for astronomers when they streak across images, interfere with radio observations, or make hard-earned data less scientifically useful. By one estimate, there could be some 100,000 satellites swarming the skies in the 2030s.

Read more at: arstechnica

Proteus Space Raises Seed Funding For AI-Assisted Smallsat Development

A startup has raised a seed round of funding to develop customized satellites with the assistance of artificial intelligence as an alternative to standardized buses.

Los Angeles-based Proteus Space announced Oct. 10 that it raised a $4.2 million seed round led by Moonshots Capital. Other investors participating in the round included Lavrock Ventures, The Veteran Fund, Mana Ventures, AIN Ventures, Capital Factory and Industrious Ventures.

Proteus will use the funding to advance its technology to enable rapid development of customized small satellites using AI, which the company argues can rapidly shorten the time to develop those satellites without requiring payloads to confirm to requirements of a more standardized satellite.

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NASA Should Consider Commercial Alternatives To SLS, Inspector General Says

In recent years NASA has acknowledged that its large Space Launch System rocket is unaffordable and has sought to bring its costs down to a more reasonable level. The most recent estimate is that it costs $2.2 billion to build a single SLS rocket, and this does not include add-ons such as ground systems, integration, a payload, and more.

Broadly speaking, NASA’s cost-reduction plan is to transfer responsibility for production of the rocket to a new company co-owned by Boeing and Northrop Grumman, which are key contractors for the rocket. This company, “Deep Space Transport,” would then build the rockets and sell them to NASA. The space agency has said that this services-based model could reduce the cost of the rocket by as much as 50 percent.

Read more at: arstechnica

‘Streets On The Moon’: Lunar Dust Could Be ‘Melted’ To Make Solid Roads

The moon has no air, no water and an extreme 250-degree temperature range, but among the most vexing challenges for space agencies hoping to set up camp is the dust. It erodes space suits, clogs machinery, interferes with scientific instruments and makes moving around difficult.

Now scientists have come up with a potential solution, demonstrating that moon dust could be melted using a giant lens to create solid roads and landing areas.

Read more at: guardian

Spanish Reusable Space Rocket Lost In Atlantic Ocean

Private Spanish space company PLD Space confirmed its reusable rocket has been lost after falling into the Atlantic Ocean following its re-entry into the atmosphere.

The Miura 1 rocket was designed to be recoverable and reusable. The Instituto Nacional de Técnica Aeroespacial (INTA), a space research body that depends of Spain’s Ministry of Defense, is also a partner of this project.

The rocket was successfully launched at 2.19 am on October 7, 2023, from the coast of Huelva province, on Spain’s southwestern Atlantic coast. It managed to reach an altitude of 45 km before initiating the maneuver to re-enter the atmosphere.

Read more at: aerotime

Unprecedented Asteroid Sample Contains ‘Crucial Elements,’ NASA Says In Historic Reveal

A pristine asteroid sample that could serve as a time capsule from the early days of our solar system has finally been revealed.

The rocks and dust contain water and a large amount of carbon, said NASA administrator Bill Nelson, which suggests that asteroids may have delivered the building blocks of life to Earth. The sample is nearly 5% carbon by weight, making it one of the highest concentrations of carbon to be studied in an asteroid, according to Dr. Jason Dworkin, OSIRIS-REx project scientist at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland.

Read more at: CNN

Spacex’s Falcon Heavy Launches $1 Billion Asteroid Mission For NASA

SpaceX’s powerful Falcon Heavy rocket successfully launched on Friday morning, carrying a NASA mission bound for a distant asteroid.

Targeting the asteroid Psyche, the eponymous NASA mission is flying a spacecraft — about the width of a tennis court — on a journey of almost six years and about 2.2 billion miles, arriving at the planetary body in July 2029.

Read more at: CNBC


Space Insurers Take Cautious Approach To Satellite Servicing

Despite satellite malfunctions that are expected to lead to major insurance claims, the space insurance field is taking a cautious approach to servicing technologies that might be able to repair such spacecraft.

In a talk at the Global Satellite Servicing Forum Oct. 12, Mark Quinn, chief executive of WTW Global Inspace, a space insurance broker, acknowledged that several high-profile satellite malfunctions and other incidents will result a major loss for the field in 2023.

“It’s the worst market we’ve been in in the last 20 years,” he said. “In the last six months there’s been about $1 billion in claims against about $500 million in premiums.”

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NASA Considering Budget Cuts For Hubble And Chandra Space Telescopes

NASA is considering cutting the budget of two of its biggest space telescopes as it faces broader spending reductions for its astrophysics programs.

In an Oct. 13 presentation to the National Academies’ Committee on Astronomy and Astrophysics, Mark Clampin, director of NASA’s astrophysics division, said he was studying unspecified cuts in the operating budgets of the Chandra X-Ray Observatory and Hubble Space Telescope to preserve funding for other priorities in the division.

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Space Exploration: Not Just A Question Of Neutral Technology

The Swiss Museum of Transport in Lucerne is a popular destination, especially for fans of technology, who can view train carriages, helicopters, or airplanes from around the world.

Now an exhibition also includes models of Chinese Mars rovers, satellites, and rockets. A mock version of the Chinese space station – the real one has been orbiting the world with a permanent crew for two years – even hangs from the ceiling.

Read more at: swissinfo

South Korea Set To Finalize Cancellation Of Launch Contracts With Russia

South Korea is close to completing the termination of a satellite launch contract with Russia.International sanctions imposed against Russia following the country’s invasion of Ukraine mean that a pair of satellites due to fly on Russian rockets in 2022 will need to find a new route to space.”The Korea Multipurpose Satellite 6 and the next-generation mid-size satellite Compact Advanced Satellite 500-2, both developed by Korea, were initially scheduled to be launched into space using Russian launch vehicles,” South Korea’s Ministry of Science and ICT (Information and Communication Technology) said in a statement, The Korea Times reported on Oct. 10.

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SpaceX Slams FAA Report On Falling Space Debris Danger

SpaceX called on the Federal Aviation Administration to correct a report to Congress warning that, by 2035, falling debris from U.S.-licensed constellations in low Earth orbit (LEO) could injure or kill someone every two years if they deploy as planned.

In an Oct. 9 letter to the FAA and Congress seen by SpaceNews, SpaceX principal engineer David Goldstein said the report relied on “deeply flawed analysis” based on assumptions, guesswork, and outdated studies. The letter came four days after SpaceNews contacted the company with questions about the report, published Oct. 5 on the FAA’s website.

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Space Insurers Brace For More Claims After Propulsion Trouble On Four GEO Satellites

Propulsion problems on four satellites using the same kind of power modules are expected to result in at least $50 million in claims for insurers already facing more than $800 million in losses this year following two major spacecraft failures.

According to multiple insurance sources, Yahsat’s Al Yah 3, Avanti Communications’ Hylas 4, and Northrop Grumman’s two Mission Extension Vehicles (MEV-1 and MEV-2) are operating with reduced power to their thrusters following a problem with onboard Power Processing Units (PPUs).

Read more at: spacenews

Azerbaijan Signs Up To China’s International Moon Base Project

Azerbaijan signed up to China’s International Lunar Research Station project Tuesday, on the sidelines of a major international space conference.

Li Guoping, chief engineer of the China National Space Administration (CNSA) and Samaddin Asadov, chairman of the Board of Azercosmos, Azerbaijan’s space agency, signed a joint statement on cooperation on the International Lunar Research Station (ILRS) Oct. 3 during the 74th International Astronautical Congress (IAC), hosted by Azerbaijan, in the capital Baku. CNSA announced the agreement Oct. 8 via a statement on its webpages.

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Startup Guardiansat Gets Research Grant For Satellite Self-Defense Technology

The startup GuardianSat announced Oct. 12 it won a grant from the National Science Foundation’s America’s Seed Fund to advance the company’s technology designed to protect satellites from collisions with debris objects in space.

GuardianSat, based in Delaware, won a Small Business Technology Transfer Phase 1 research contract worth about $273,000. In addition the company will get technical support from the Aerospace Corp. America’s Seed Fund invests up to $200 million a year in promising startups.

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Tech Innovations Help Space Force Guardians Prepare For The Battlefield Above

In an era where space has become a contested domain, members of the U.S. Space Force, save for a select few astronauts, find themselves firmly grounded on Earth.

Unlike their counterparts in the Air Force, who engage in training missions up in the sky, or Navy sailors who practice combat drills at sea, Space Force guardians don’t get to directly experience outer space. Their training, instead, is confined to the boundaries of classrooms and traditional simulators designed for repeated practice of a specific skill.

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More Eyes In The Sky: NRO Building New Satellites To Deliver ‘10 Times More Signals And Images’

The National Reconnaissance Office is on track to dramatically increase the number of spy satellites it relies upon to collect intelligence, the agency’s deputy director Maj. Gen. Christopher Povak said Oct. 10.

Speaking at the Mitchell Institute for Aerospace Studies, Povak offered further insight into the agency’s plan to grow its constellations of satellites for imaging, signals intelligence and reconnaissance.

Read more at: spacenews

Iran Hits Back At Britain Over Satellite Launch

Iran on Wednesday condemned Britain for criticising the Islamic republic over the launch of its latest military satellite into orbit.

The Islamic republic announced last week the “successful” launch of the Noor-3 imaging satellite by its three-stage Qassed rocket, in the latest display of its aerospace technology.

Western nations have repeatedly warned against such activity, saying the same technology can be used for ballistic missiles including ones designed to deliver nuclear warheads.

Read more at: spacedaily

DoD-Funded Space Project Advances Non-GPS Navigation

Vector Atomic, a California-based startup, worked with Honeywell Aerospace to produce a cutting-edge navigation sensor that uses an atomic clock to take precise measurements without relying on GPS.

The atomic sensor, funded by the Pentagon’s Defense Innovation Unit, was delivered in August and is awaiting a ride to space, Vector Atomic’s CEO Jamil Abo-Shaeer, told SpaceNews.

Abo-Shaeer, a former project manager at the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, co-founded Vector Atomic in 2018 with the goal of fielding and commercializing atomic instruments.

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Seeing Chandrayaan-3 Craft Development, US Experts Wanted India To Share Space Technology With Them: Isro Chief

Isro chairman S. Somanath on Sunday said, experts involved in developing complex rocket missions in the US, after witnessing the developmental activities of Chandrayaan-3 spacecraft, suggested that India share space technology with them. Times have changed and India is capable of building the best of devices and rockets and that is why Prime Minister Narendra Modi has opened the space sector to private players, he said at an event here.

Read more at: times of india

NASA’s next spacesuits might arrive runway-ready.

Axiom Space has joined forces with the Italian luxury fashion house Prada for the lunar spacesuits that will be worn on NASA’s Artemis III mission.

“Prada’s technical expertise with raw materials, manufacturing techniques, and innovative design concepts will bring advanced technologies instrumental in ensuring not only the comfort of astronauts on the lunar surface but also the much-needed human factors considerations absent from legacy spacesuits,” Michael Suffredini, CEO of Axiom Space, said in a statement.

Read more at: pcmag

China Gives Ehang The First Industry Approval For Fully Autonomous, Passenger-Carrying Air Taxis

Self-driving air taxis are one step closer to reality in China.Guangzhou-based Ehangon Friday said it received an airworthiness “type certificate” from the Civil Aviation Administration of China for its fully autonomous drone, the EH216-S AAV, that carries two human passengers. The regulator is the equivalent of the Federal Aviation Administration in the U.S.U.S.-listed Ehang claims it’s the first in the world to get such a certificate, which allows it to fly passenger-carrying autonomous electric vertical take-off and landing (eVTOL) aircraft in China.

Read more at: CNBC

A Comprehensive Blueprint For The Settlement Of Mars

Throughout the 20th century, multiple proposals have been made for the crewed exploration of Mars. These include the famed “Mars Project” by Werner von Braun, the “Mars Direct” mission architecture by Robert Zubrin and David Baker, NASA’s Mars Design Reference Mission studies, and SpaceX’s Mars & Beyond plan. By 2033, two space agencies (NASA and the CNSA) plan to commence sending crews and payloads to the Red Planet. These and other space agencies envision building bases there that could eventually lead to permanent settlements and the first “Martians.”

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The Fastest Ever Human-Made Object Keeps Breaking Its Own Speed Record

The 2018 winner of PopSci’s annual Best of What’s New continues to impress. NASA’s Parker Solar Probe is still edging closer to the sun than any other spacecraft has ever achieved, and it’s setting new speed records in the process. According to a recent status update from the space agency, the Parker Solar Probe has broken its own record (again) for the fastest thing ever made by human hands—at an astounding clip of 394,736 mph.

Read more at: popsci

NASA Plans To Move Americans To The Moon By 2040: ‘It Was Inevitable’

Shoot for the moon — you could land a new home.

By 2040, Americans could be living on the moon, despite skeptics’ doubts, a NASA spokesperson told the New York Times. “We’re at a pivotal moment, and in some ways, it feels like a dream sequence,” Niki Werkheiser, the director of technology maturation at NASA, told the outlet. “In other ways, it feels like it was inevitable that we would get here.”

The mission, named Artemis, will send four humans to orbit the moon in November 2024, followed by the first humans landing on the moon in more than half a century a year later.

“We’ve got all the right people together at the right time with a common goal, which is why I think we’ll get there,” added Werkheiser.

Read more at: nypost

Satellite Swarm To Provide ‘Missing Link’ Between Space Weather And Space Debris

The European Space Agency (ESA) has funded a new mission concept involving a “swarm” of satellites to address the growing threat of space debris. The news comes as just this week the US government issued its first ever fine to a company for leaving space junk orbiting the Earth.

Space debris poses a huge problem for global communication systems and space exploration efforts. Over 50,000 pieces of orbital debris are actively tracked by the Space Surveillance Network, while over 170 million smaller pieces that cannot be tracked, also pose catastrophic collision risks. Though tiny, these items of space junk, often from colliding decommissioned rockets, can have as much energy as grenades and bullets and can tear through spacecraft causing extensive damage.

Read more at: spacedaily