Thursday, February 12, 2009

Space Traffic Control ?



I really don’t like the term “satellite-based” as it is used to sell NextGen. It just seems too close to the spiel a used-car salesman might use to convince you to buy a junker. “Would you just look at those racing stripes ? This car looks fast standing still.”

Perhaps then you can understand my perverse pleasure in this story:

US, Russian satellites collide in space

”Before the latest incident, there were over 300,000 orbital objects measuring between 1 and 10 centimeters (0.4 and four inches) in diameter and "billions" of smaller pieces, according to a report issued last year by an international monitoring group called the Space Security Index.

Travelling at speeds that can reach many thousands of kilometers (miles) per hour, the tiniest debris can damage or destroy a spacecraft worth billions of dollars. “


So much for the Big Sky Space Theory. We earth-bound controllers refer to a “debris field” as an “aluminum shower”. What’s left of the “objects” shows up as hundreds of little specks -- like aluminum rain -- on the radar scope. I’m guessing an aluminum shower moving at 30,000 miles per hour might present a few long term “challenges” for the space industry. The image of a giant shotgun blast speeding toward billion-dollar birds comes to my mind.

Don’t worry. We’ll be able to watch it all with our “antiquated ground-based radar technology.”

Don Brown
February 12, 2009

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