Two defunct satellites will zip past each other at 32,800 mph (14.7 kilometers per second) in the sky over Pittsburgh on Wednesday evening (Jan. 29). If the two satellites were to collide, the debris could endanger spacecraft around the planet.
It will be a near miss: LeoLabs, the satellite-tracking company that made the prediction, said they should pass between 50 feet and 100 feet apart (15 to 30 meters) at 6:39:35 p.m. local time.
One is called the Infrared Astronomical Satellite (IRAS). Launched in 1983, it was the first infrared space telescope and operated for less than a year, according to the Jet Propulsion Laboratory. The other is called the Gravity Gradient Stabilization Experiment (GGSE-4), and was a U.S. Air Force experiment launched in 1967 to test spacecraft design principles, according to NASA. The two satellites are unlikely to actually slam into each other, said LeoLabs CEO Dan Ceperley. But predictions of the precise movements of fairly small, fast objects over vast distances is a challenge, Ceperley told Live Science. (LeoLabs’ business model is selling improvements on those predictions.)
If they did collide, “there would be thousands of pieces of new debris that would stay in orbit for decades. Those new clouds of debris would threaten any satellites operating near the collision altitude and any spacecraft transiting through on its way to other destinations. The new debris [would] spread out and form a debris belt around the Earth,” Ceperley said.
LeoLabs uses its own network of ground-based radar to track orbiting objects. Still, Jonathan McDowell, a Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics astronomer who tracks satellites using public data, said the near-miss prediction was plausible.
“I confirm there is a close approach of these two satellites around 2339 UTC Jan 29. How close isn’t clear from the data I have, but it’s reasonable that LEOLabs data is better,” McDowell told Live Science.
(When it’s 23:39 UTC it’s 6:39 p.m. Eastern time, which is the time zone in Pittsburgh.)
“What’s different here is that this isn’t debris-on-payload but payload-on-payload,” McDowell said. In other words, in this case two satellites, rather than debris and a satellite, are coming close to one another.
It’s pretty common for bits of orbital debris to have near misses in orbit, Ceperley said, which usually go untracked. It’s more unusual, though, for two full-size satellites to come this close in space. IRAS in particular is the size of a truck, at 11.8 feet by 10.6 feet by 6.7 feet (3.6 by 3.2 by 2.1 m).
“Events like this highlight the need for responsible, timely deorbiting of satellites for space sustainability moving forward. We will continue to monitor this event through the coming days and provide updates as available,” LeoLabs said on Twitter.
Correction: This story has been updated to reflect the correct day of the satellites’ near-miss. It is Wednesday, Jan. 29.
Originally published on Live Science.
NASA's Artemis 1, Over 400,000 Kms From Earth, Sets A New Record – NDTV
NASA’s Artemis 1 Orion has set a new record for the spacecraft designed to carry humans to deep space by travelling 419,378 kilometres from Earth. The record was previously set during the Apollo 13 mission at 248,655 miles from our home planet.
For the next six days, Orion will remain in lunar orbit. It will then put the spacecraft on a trajectory back to Earth, followed by a Sunday, December 11, splashdown in the Pacific Ocean, a press release by NASA said.
Mission Time: 11 days, 4 hrs, 27 min
Orion is 260,590 miles from Earth, 48,345 miles from the Moon, cruising at 1,852 miles per hour.
P: (133334, -199119, -112070)
V: (1774, 512, 140)
O: 335º, 3.1º, 305.6º
What’s this? https://t.co/voR4yGy2mg#TrackArtemispic.twitter.com/OM7HlUbMnE
— Orion Spacecraft (@NASA_Orion) November 27, 2022
NASA, in a build-up to the landmark event, said, “Today, NASA Orion Spacecraft will break the record for farthest distance of a spacecraft designed to carry humans to deep space and safely return them to Earth. This record is currently held by Apollo 13.” The text was attached to a video featuring the Apollo astronauts and flight directors who spoke about the future of Artemis. Take a look:
Today, @NASA_Orion will break the record for farthest distance of a spacecraft designed to carry humans to deep space and safely return them to Earth. This record is currently held by Apollo 13.
— NASA (@NASA) November 26, 2022
NASA is expected to use innovative measures to learn more about the Moon’s South Pole. The agency will also try to understand the lunar surface with the help of the Gateway Space Station in orbit, the press note added.
The spacecraft has a sensor named Commander Moonikin Campos attached to it. It will help provide information on what crew members may experience in flight. The Campos is named after Arturo Campos, the key player in bringing Apollo 13 safely back to Earth.
Answering questions at a discussion conducted by NASA on Twitter, Jim Geffre, Orion’s spacecraft integration manager, said, “Artemis 1 was designed to stress the systems of Orion and we settled on the distant retrograde orbit as a really good way to do that.”
Featured Video Of The Day
YouTuber Mark Rober drops eggs from space to land in Victor Valley – VVdailypress.com
The 42-year-old Rober and his team of scientists dropped both eggs, with the intention of them not breaking, from a height of nearly 19 miles and with the help of a high-altitude balloon provided by Night Crew Labs.
The launch occurred earlier this year, but the “Egg Drop From Space” video was uploaded to YouTube on Black Friday.
It includes shots of the team driving on Bear Valley Road toward Deadman’s Point in Apple Valley. Also shown are Bell Mountain, Interstate 15 and an area west of I-15 and near the Dale Evans Parkway offramp.
A shot from the weather balloon in space showed the Victor Valley, including landmarks such as Spring Valley Lake and the Mojave River.
The egg-drop project
When Rober started conceptualizing his egg drop project nearly three years ago, he knew that a successful record drop would come from his experience of landing scientific gear on other planets when he worked for NASA.
A graduate of USC, Rober worked at NASA for nine years, seven of them on the Mars Curiosity project. He also spent five years at Apple working on advanced virtual reality technology for autonomous vehicles before quitting to become a full-time YouTuber.
Rober confessed that before he embarked on the egg drop project, he didn’t know that it would be the most “physically, financially and mentally draining video” he would ever attempt.
Rober’s team included rocket and propulsion specialist Joe Barnard, of BPS Systems, which helped with the rocket’s guidance system and design.
Rober’s original plan was to affix an egg onto a rocket, which would be lifted by a large weather balloon. Once in space, the rocket would be released and would guide the rocket to an area over the drop target.
At 300 feet above the ground, the egg would be released and free-fall toward a specially designed mattress.
After determining the terminal velocity of the egg to be 74 mph, he successfully tested the speed inside his Crunch Lab located near San Francisco
Rober and his team then headed to the Northern California town of Gridley for three low-altitude tests, which all failed.
‘A fatal flaw’
Rober sought the guidance of NASA engineer Adam Steltzner, who works for the Jet Propulsion Laboratory and on several flight projects including Galileo, Cassini, Mars Pathfinder and the Mars Exploration Rovers.
After listening to Rober and details about his project, Steltzner found a “fatal flaw” in the project and asked him, “How did you not get busted by the FAA?”
Rober realized that his project was akin to creating a precision-guided missile, which is frowned upon by the federal government.
Heading to the High Desert
After going back to the drawing board, Rober’s team decided to conduct a rocket launch with a general egg drop target area in the High Desert.
The launch would use a weather balloon, which would lift a larger and heavier rocket to guarantee the egg would reach supersonic speed on its way down.
The helium-filled balloon would release the rocket, which would begin separating.
A portion of the rocket, carrying the egg, would slow before losing its nose cone and deploying a parachute and cushioned airbags, which were borrowed from the Spirit and Opportunity landing projects.
Just before liftoff, Rober discovered that the newly designed, the two-piece rocket might unexpectedly separate at Mach 2.
Rober and his team fixed the rocket’s connection point and ran vacuum and heat tests on the egg chamber.
They also built redundancy into the system, which included creating a custom beach ball, filled with packing materials to protect a second egg.
The entire payload, suspended from the balloon, would detach and simply fall to earth over the target.
Rober’s friend, JPL systems engineer Allen Chen, traveled to the Victor Valley for Rober’s second launch.
In 2012, Chen uttered the famous words, “Touchdown confirmed, we’re safe on Mars,” after the Curiosity Rover had survived the harrowing plunge and landed on the red planet.
Somewhere near Apple Valley, the lift-off of Rober’s balloon, rocket, beach ball and eggs was successful.
As the team drove and arrived at the projected landing site, they discovered that the balloon had surpassed the 100,000-foot mark.
As the group celebrated, moments later, they discovered that the balloon had suddenly lost altitude and came crashing down to earth.
As the balloon ascended, the cord that held the rocket, beach ball and eggs had wound so tight that it pulled down on the balloon, causing it to come hurtling down at 150 mph, “Which is way faster than the eggs could survive,” Rober explained.
As the team looked for the wreckage, they spotted the parachute, the rocket and the beach ball.
Rober was excited that at 20,000 feet, the payload had autonomously detached itself from the balloon.
Rober held back his excitement as he opened the rocket to inspect the egg.
As a smiling Rober pulled an uncracked egg from the rocket and held it high, Chen joyously said, “Touchdown confirmed, we’re safe on earth.”
That was repeated when Rober ripped open the beach ball and pulled out a second uncracked egg that he kissed.
“Two for two, baby!” shouted Rober as he high-fived Chen. “Two for two!”
Rober ended the video by saying that the egg drop from space project reminded him that in life things rarely unfold how we think they will.
“But by learning from your failures, coupled with a bit of tenacity, us humans can accomplish a feat as incredible as the world’s smartest Martian robot or as ridiculous as the world’s tallest egg drop,” Rober said.
Daily Press reporter Rene Ray De La Cruz may be reached at 760-951-6227 or RDeLaCruz@VVDailyPress.com. Follow him on Twitter @DP_ReneDeLaCruz
In a B.C. first, UVic mini-satellite launched into space after four years of work
A University of Victoria satellite the size of a two-litre milk carton, designed to calibrate light, was fired into space Saturday, after four years of work by dozens of students, faculty and researchers.
ORCASat started its journey to space at 11:20 a.m. Saturday as part of NASA’s SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket launch at Kennedy Space Center in Florida.
Early this morning, about 4 a.m., the satellite is scheduled to be taken on board the International Space Station where it will wait for a few weeks before being fired into space to orbit the Earth for as long as it can survive.
Saturday’s successful launch was extra-sweet because a planned Tuesday launch was postponed due to poor weather. Watchers from UVic returned home after the delayed launch.
A nervous Alex Doknjas, ORCASat project manager, went into his family’s living room at 10:30 a.m. Saturday where he waited with loved ones and about 20 others on a video chat, including a UVic group, to watch the event together. Cheers and claps erupted when the rocket launched on time. “It’s great. It’s fantastic,” he said.
There was a little wind picking up on the launch site shortly before liftoff was scheduled and Doknjas said he was worried it was about to get scrubbed again, but that didn’t happen.
The excitement has been years in the making thanks to about 140 people who have been part of a team at the University of Victoria Centre for Aerospace Research.
Full-time researchers, co-op and volunteer students from UVic Satellite Design, UBC Orbit, and Simon Fraser University Satellite Design have all contributed.
The ORCASat (for Optical Reference Calibration Satellite) measures 10 centimetres by 10 centimetres by 23 centimetres and weighs 2.5 kilograms.
Doknjas said as far as he knows this is the first “Cubesat” designed and built in this province. “That’s a pretty big milestone.”
The estimated date to launch ORCASat is between Dec. 29 and the first week in January.
ORCASat will be doing a 400-kilometre orbit around Earth and travelling at 7.5 kilometres a second. “It’s pretty fast.”
It is not known exactly how long it will last but it could be six to eight months, up to 18 months, Doknjas said. Factors such as sun flares, solar radiation, pressure and more can all impact the life of the satellite.
ORCASat is basically an artificial star, a reference light source in orbit that can be viewed by telescopes on Earth.
Astronomers can measure how bright ORCASat appears, just as they would an astronomical object.
At the same time, the satellite, using two laser light sources, will measure the amount of light that an astronomical object is emitting.
This will allow ground-based telescopes to be calibrated to measure the absolute brightness of an astronomical object, not how they appear after passing through the atmosphere and the optics of a telescope.
This is the first satellite ever to carry a light source capable of performing this experiment to this level of accuracy.
It is a proof-of-concept technology which in the future could be developed to be applicable in such areas as climate change, Earth observation and methane gas research, Doknjas said.
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