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How to Track Thousands of Pieces of Space Junk Orbiting Earth

Written by on Friday, March 9th, 2012

“Space” can be a somewhat misleading term. While the vast majority of space is essentially empty, the area around planet earth is much more cluttered than most people think. Satellites, old components of machinery, abandoned rocket parts, debris, and thousands of other particles of junk are orbiting the earth in wild, disorderly patterns. The Air Force claims that as much as 95% of this debris is essentially useless junk that has no practical function.

But just because this debris is useless, that doesn’t mean that it isn’t harmless. Collisions with objects could seriously damage or utterly destroy any of the more valuable satellites orbiting earth. So, figuring out a way to prevent these high-altitude collisions could save billions of dollars.

That’s why the United States has secured a contract with Lockheed Martin to develop the Space Fence. This name is also a bit misleading, as it is not very fence-like it all. It will be more like a surveillance system or debris log that allows us the Air Force to track the trajectory of all orbital objects. Once the Space Fence is active, it will be able to locate and monitor 200,000 individual pieces of space purchase valium debris, with many of these objects being no larger than a few inches across.

It’s important not to underestimate the importance of a system like the Space Fence. Space collisions are a very real danger, one that holds the potential to complete devastate anything hit. In 2009, the US satellite Iridium 33 and the Russian satellite Kosmos 2251 experienced a T-bone collision that obliterated both objects. Worst of all, the collision produced thousands of pieces of debris that pose serious threats to all other satellites in orbit.

Once we have a basic idea of where all of this space junk is and where it’s headed, it should be possible to develop techniques that will help avoid collisions in the future. For one, it will be easier to predict collisions and make any necessary corrections to avoid damage. Others are considering building a janitorial satellite that will shoot lasers at objects to divert their path. Either way, the Space Fence should be the first step in keeping our skies clean. Armed with this new information, this should help to reduce the extremely slight but reasonable odds of you ever stepping on fallen radioactive satellite waste.


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