Sunday, February 15, 2009

Space Junk Orbiting the Earth

Recently, I read an article in the Focus magazine which says that the space junk orbiting the Earth is becoming quite dangerous for space flight. Today on the Internet I happened to find a similar article and I decided to write about it in my first post.

Since the beginning of space flight there has always been debris floating around the Earth such as rocket boosters and nuts and bolts. These things have not been very harmful. Until now... Recently these things have become dangerous. A bolt may not sound harmful but if this bolt is travelling at 10m/s it becomes a huge problem. These debris are endangering other objects orbiting the Earth such as satellites and the ISS (International Space Station). Luckily objects which are bigger than 10 cm can be tracked. This is done by the SSN (Space Surveillance Network) which is a network of 25 sensors which are placed around the world. This is then processed by very powerful computers and if required a warning is sent to NASA.

The debris is very difficult to get rid of and if it crashes with another piece of debris it explodes into thousands of other pieces. Some of these object simply crash to the Earth and burn up but there are still a lot of debris above us. Currently there is no option for the satellites such as the ISS except to simply get out of the way by moving up or down. There have been plans to use things like lasers to get rid of these objects. But a laser powerful enough to do this could also destroy other satellites so these plans have never gone past the planning stage.

But there is nothing we can do now except get out of the way. Hopefully in the future we will be less careless about what we leave in space.

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