A pair of decommissioned satellites are at risk of colliding later today, potentially producing hundreds if not thousands of new pieces of space debris. Regardless of what happens, however, this incident illustrates our dire need for sensible space management practices.
Normally, operators on the ground can adjust the orbital inclination of their satellites in the event of a potential collision, but neither of these satellites is functional. One of the two, the joint NASA-Netherlands Infrared Astronomical Satellite (IRAS), weighs around 1,073 kilograms (2,366 pounds) and has been in space since 1983. The other, GGSE-4 (also known as Poppy 5B), was launched in the late 1960s by the U.S. Naval Research Laboratory and weighs 83 kg (183 lbs).
At a relative velocity of 14.7 kilometers (9.1 miles) per second, a collision between these two satellites would generate a tremendous amount of space debris, increasing the odds of yet another collision at some point in the future. The decommissioned satellites will experience their closest approach at 6:39 p.m. ET Wednesday (January 29, 2020) in the skies above eastern North America—but don’t worry, the debris would stay in low Earth orbit (LEO).
The potential collision was detected by LeoLabs, a private company that tracks satellites and debris in low Earth orbit. The company operates three radar stations, two in the U.S. and one in New Zealand, and it can track objects as small as 10 centimeters (3.9 inches) in diameter.
In a recent update, LeoLabs tweeted their latest assessment of the situation. The odds of a collision are back to 1 in 100, after the company had briefly assigned a 1 in 1,000 chance earlier today. The satellites will swing past each other at a distance of around 12 meters (39.5 feet)—an extremely close shave by any measure. The closest approach will happen at an altitude of 900 kilometers (560 miles) above Earth’s surface.
An even more alarming calculation from LeoLabs takes into account the 18-meter-long (59-foot) booms attached to GGSE-4. With those taken into consideration, the odds of a collision jump to 1 in 20, according to LeoLabs.
These odds may seem (relatively) low, but satellite operators ring the alarm bells when the odds approach 1 in 10,000. So while the chance of a collision seems slim, this is a matter of serious concern. In an email to Gizmodo, McDowell said two satellites coming this close together “is still rare” but is becoming “more frequent as LEO gets more crowded.”
The current situation with IRAS and GGSE-4 stems from their immobile status, but McDowell said this problem will eventually extend to live satellites. Operators will have to move an increasing number of satellites to avoid collisions, which could potentially put them in the paths of other satellites “depending on the accuracy of predictions,” he said, adding that another issue will be the ability to perform one-day-ahead satellite predictions. Ideally, he hopes that satellite operators will eventually work at 10-meter (33-foot) resolutions, instead of the current 100-meter (328–foot) level of accuracy. That “would help,” said McDowell, “but we don’t know how to get there.”
“There have always been close calls in space—not to mention accidental collisions—but we are certainly becoming more aware of them as our ability to identify and monitor objects in space through space situational awareness improves,” Jessica West, a program officer at Project Ploughshares and the managing editor of its Space Security Index, wrote in an email to Gizmodo. “For active satellites, this means that there is more opportunity to maneuver to avoid a close call. But for dead satellites, we are still stuck waiting and watching with our fingers crossed.”
That LEO is becoming overcrowded is no secret. Figures from the U.S. Space Surveillance network shows that roughly 29,000 objects larger than 10 centimeters (3.9 inches) are currently in LEO, many of which are zipping around at speeds reaching 10 kilometers (6 miles) per second. This figure is set to increase due to the lower costs of launching objects into space and the trend toward more compact satellites. The rise of megaconstellations, such as SpaceX’s Starlink, will result in thousands more satellites.
Sure, LEO seems vast, but the amount of space in space is somewhat of an illusion. Space and time shrink owing to the tremendous speeds involved. Space traffic is not like it is on Earth’s surface, where velocities are measured in terms of distance per hour rather than per second. Satellite motions in space are akin to watching movies in fast-forward.
McDowell described it as an n-squared problem. A 10-fold increase in the number of satellites results in a 100-fold increase in the number of close misses and actual collisions, he said, “adding that “we’re about due for one.”
Even one collision would be bad. If IRAS and GGSE-4 smash into each other tonight, the resulting kinetic energy would blow debris into neighboring orbits, further heightening the odds of another collision. This could result in a hypothetical cascade known as a Kessler Syndrome, in which an ever-growing cloud of space debris eventually makes LEO inaccessible.
In terms of technical solutions to the problem, West says we could reduce the amount of defunct satellites in orbit by “designing them with the ability and intention to de-orbit at the end of their service lifespan.” Satellites in LEO, namely those below 600 kilometers (370 miles), will “naturally be dragged down into Earth’s atmosphere and disintegrate within 25 years,” West told Gizmodo, but “25 years is a long time—too long given the intensity to which we are using this orbit and the tens of thousands of new satellites potentially being launched.”
That said, IRAS and GGSE-4 are much higher, around 800 kilometers (500 miles), an altitude in which objects “will remain in orbit for decades unless intentionally de-orbited, which is not the norm,” said West.
Several initiatives are currently underway to devise ways of decluttering LEO, but these solutions come with their own drawbacks, including tremendous costs and numerous safety considerations. Ultimately, West says this latest incident “points to the need for better, global governance of activities in outer space.”
Apollo 15's fiftieth Anniversary: Moon Touchdown Observed In Shocking Element – TheNewsTrace
New Pictures Launched to Fox Information Display the Apollo 15 moon touchdown in exceptional element 50 years later.
The footage, remastered through “Apollo Remastered” writer Andy Saunders, display the Lunar Roving Car (LRV) because it was once managed through astronauts Commander David Scott and Lunar Module Pilot Jim Irwin on this planet surfaced for the primary time.
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NASA SEISMOLOGISTS CONSIDER THE INTERIOR OF ANOTHER PLANET FOR THE FIRST TIME
Scott and Irwin landed the lunar module Falcon on July 30, 1971, in keeping with a file of the occasions through NASA.
The venture was once introduced from Cape Canaveral, Florida 4 days previous and entered orbit on July 29.
Irwin and Scott then separated the Falcon from fellow astronaut Alfred Worden, who remained in orbit aboard the Undertaking.
Scott and Irwin landed at Hadley-Apennine and performed 4 spacewalks and 3 box journeys the usage of the LRV, for a complete of nineteen hours and 17.5 miles.
The pair accumulated 170 kilos of lunar subject material, together with: rock and soil samples, whilst Worden additionally took images and performed an intensive collection of observations from above.
About 57 hours later — after dozing fairly undisturbed at the moon, save for a imaginable oxygen leak — Scott and Irwin were given in a position to rejoin Worden.
On August 2, the Falcon took off from the moon – observed at soil the primary time by means of an LRV tv digital camera — and the spacecraft docked with Undertaking because the module launched into its fiftieth lunar orbit.
Changing into on August 5 changed into the primary human to accomplish a deep area EVA (extravehicular job), go out the spacecraft, climb to the again of the carrier module and take away movie cassettes from the cameras and go back in lower than 20 mins.
At 4:46 p.m. ET on August 7, Apollo 15 crashed into the Pacific after a venture of greater than 12 days.
The team was once rescued from the waters north of Honolulu through the USS Okinawa.
Apollo 15 set a number of data for manned spaceflight, together with the heaviest payload in lunar orbit, most radial distance traveled at the moon from the spacecraft, maximum EVAs at the lunar floor, and longest period for EVAs at the lunar floor, the longest lunar orbit, the longest manned lunar venture, the longest Apollo venture, the primary deep area and operational EVA, and the primary first satellite tv for pc orbiting the moon through a manned spacecraft.
Whilst many American citizens bear in mind Apollo 11 — the primary spaceflight to land people at the moon — and the near-fatal Apollo 13 venture, Apollo 15 and the LRV stay historic symbols of the USA area program’s lunar program.
Saunders Pictures — together with frames shot with a Hasselblad digital camera — had been merged into panoramas and come with each pictures shot at the lunar floor and of the Endeavour, which might be highlighted in a YouTube video.
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Along with lunar panorama photographs, Saunders has remastered footage of the primary tracks taken through the LRV, the Apollo Lunar Floor Experiments Bundle (ALSEP) setup, and a photograph of Irwin saluting the American flag.
People first drove on the Moon 50 years ago today – Yahoo Movies Canada
NASA just celebrated another major moment in the history of Moon exploration. The New York Times noted that July 31st, 2021 marks the 50th anniversary of the Lunar Roving Vehicle’s first outing — and the first time people drove on the Moon. Apollo 15 astronauts Dave Scott and Jim Irwin took the car on a stint to collect samples and explore the lunar surface more effectively than they could on foot.
Scott and Irwin would eventually drive the rover two more times (for a total of three hours) before returning to Earth. The Apollo 16 and 17 missions each had an LRV of their own. There was also a fourth rover, but it was used for spare parts after the cancellation of Apollo 18 and further missions. All three serving models remained on the Moon.
Early development was problematic, in no small part due to the lack of real-world testing conditions. They couldn’t exactly conduct a real-world test drive, after all. The team eventually settled on a collapsible design with steel mesh wheels that could safely handle the Moon’s low gravity, lack of atmosphere, extreme temperatures and soft soil.
The LRV was modest, with a 57-mile range, four 0.19kW motors and an official top speed of 8MPH. It was also expensive, with cost overruns bringing the price of four rovers to $38 million (about $249 million in 2021 dollars). It was key to improved scientific exploration during the later stages of the Apollo program, though, and it was also an early example of a practical electric vehicle — humans were using a battery-powered ride on the Moon decades before the technology became mainstream on Earth.
We wouldn’t count on humans driving on the Moon any time soon, although that reflects the progress made in the 50 years since. NASA and other space agencies are now focused on robotic rovers that can explore the Moon without worries about crew safety. Those humans that do go on rides will likely use autonomous vehicles. Think of this anniversary as celebrating a first step toward the technology you see today.
Russia reports pressure drop in space station service module – Yahoo News Canada
MOSCOW (Reuters) – The head of Russia’s Roscosmos space agency said on Saturday that pressure in a Russian service module on the International Space Station had dropped as a result of an air leak.
Pressure had fallen over a two-week period before a Russian research module, the Nauka, threw the station out of control when its engines fired shortly after docking on Thursday, but Roscosmos head Dmitry Rogozin said the two events were not linked.
The fall in pressure was a result of a known minor air leak in an isolated transfer chamber of the Zvezda service module and pressure will be raised in the next 24 hours, Roscosmos said in a statement.
“It was an expected and not a ‘sharp’ drop in the still problematic Zvezda and it is not linked to the research module,” Rogozin tweeted in response to media reports.
Pressure in the service module dropped on July 29, the day the Nauka research module docked, to about one third of its level on July 14 but would be increased, Rogozin tweeted.
The air leak in the Zvezda module, which provides living quarters for crew members and life support systems, was detected last year. It poses no danger to the crew but persists despite attempts to fix it by sealing cracks.
Russia said on Friday that a software glitch, and possible lapse in human attention, were to blame for an emergency caused by inadvertently reignited jet thrusters of the Nauka research module.
On Saturday, Russian crew entered the research module after the air was tested and cleaned, Rogozin tweeted.
Russia held a scientific council meeting on Saturday to discuss the future use of the Russian segment of the space station, which was sent into orbit in 1998 and is supposed to work until 2028.
“The chief constructors council noted after considering the current condition of the Russian ISS segment that the use of the Russian ISS segment after 2024 creates additional risks due to the ageing of equipment,” Roscosmos said.
(Reporting by Maria Tsvetkova; Editing by Giles Elgood)
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