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Posted by on Nov 14, 2012 in Science |

Space debris, forming a serious problem

Space debris, forming a serious problem

In a calm and clear night, away from the pollution of the city, occasionally we see some fairly bright objects moving on a background adorned with the stars of our galaxy. These points are moving satellites that are orbiting our planet and with great confidence, that point could be argued that it is just an obsolete satellite observed without increased utility, which is viewed space junk. These useless objects, coupled with the remains that have been created by his pitches, are a threat to our modern way of life, which largely depends on satellite telecommunications, advanced scientific experiments, global positioning devices and climate observations of our planet.

Professor Richard Crowther , a British specialist on and chief engineer of the UK Space Agency , defined in 1994 to the debris as “any man-made object that has been injected into orbit and neither at this time nor in the foreseeable future, will have some useful purpose

According accounting European Space Operations Centre (ESOC) conducted in 2009, 94% of the objects that orbit our planet, old satellites, rocket parts and fragmented parts of both, easily fall under the definition that Professor Crowther used for almost 20 years.

With more than 4,800 launches since the beginning of the space race in 1957 space junk numbers continue growing steadily. With continuous tracking ESOC and the Space Surveillance Network Space Command U.S. Air Force is estimated that there are up to 150 million objects considered as space junk in orbit all altitudes. The area with the highest concentration of objects is low Earth orbit that has detected and tracked 20,000 objects larger than 10 centimeters, 400,000 objects between 1 and 10 centimeters (often described as an object the size of a baseball) and up to 20 million objects with a size less than 1 centimeter. Impacts between objects of the first two categories could have disastrous results for satellites in operation.

Training Space Debris

There are two forms of space junk training: non-provision of satellites that have exceeded their useful life and the fragmentation of devices in orbit. Fragmented objects are the great creators of space junk, and occasionally with some missions we find that creating more space junk than others ( The 10 missions that have generated more space junk ). United States and Russia, as expected, are the two countries that have more space debris objects classified as more than 12,000 objects larger than 10 centimeters.

Although currently the missions are designed such that the payload to orbit the earth be removed at the end of its useful life, past missions do not consider when the mission ended. That’s why little over 5,200 dead satellites currently in orbit and could remain there for more than 200 years. The clearest case is the satellite Vanguard-1 which is the longest man-made object in space has to be the fourth satellite to be launched into space, a March 17, 1968. According to their orbital characteristics is estimated that 1.5 kg small satellite can stay in orbit between 300 to 600 years depending on the solar atmosphere pushes slowly pushes it back to our planet.

Fragmentation in orbit, by itself, contributes to 56 percent of the objects found around our planet. The vast majority of fragmentation is given by the accidental explosion of a rocket upper stages. The first event of fragmentation is produced by step Able rocket of Thor in 1961 which burned fragments in Earth orbit years later. The worst event was caused by the explosion of a Delta-II in 1977 that caused 934 objects detected in OBT

. The explosions in orbit, though less frequent, are still a major problem in creating space junk. On October 16, the stage Briz-M of a Proton had an accidental explosion in an elliptical orbit that caused the generation OBT 80 pieces over 10 inches detectable by the RVE. This is the second explosion of a Briz-M stage in this decade, the first occurred in 2006 generating 1,000 pieces detectable; additionally the Briz-M has failed launches in 2008 and 2011 without causing explosions.

We can not fail to mention two special cases recent testing a Chinese antisatellite missile in 2007 and the first collision between satellites in space. On January 11, 2007 China tested an anti-satellite missile that hit a weather satellite Fenguyn 1-C creating a cloud of 3,312 pieces of space junk with a size greater than 10 inches and 35,000 greater than 1 centimeter. Before this explosion Russia had tested anti-satellite missiles and 9 USA 2 causing the creation of less than 500 objects 3. Finally the most special event has been the impact of a Kosmos satellite Iridium 2251 with a 33 on Siberia, that considered the first collision between satellites the February 10, 2009 . The result of this collision was the creation of at least 1,000 pieces of trash with a size greater than 10 inches.

Additionally we discuss some special cases where astronauts lost in space objects. The first was Ed White in 1965 who lost a glove extra space. Michael Collins lost a camera, Sunita Williams has lost a camera and a wrench, is that occasionally the bathroom spatial MIR came to stop working and its cosmonauts had to dispose of their solid waste by throwing them overboard, and finally we see video Heidemarie Stefanyshyn-Piper lost her tool bag on a spacewalk.