US and Russian satellites collide

Tom James @ 12-02-2009

satellite_dieOn Tuesday a satellite owned by the US company Iridium collided with an inoperative Russian satellite nearly 780 km above the Earth:

The risk to the International Space Station and a shuttle launch planned for later this month is said to be low.

The impact produced massive clouds of debris, and the magnitude of the crash is not expected to be clear for weeks.

There are thousands of man-made objects orbiting the earth, but this is thought to be the first time two intact spacecraft have hit each other, the BBC’s Andy Gallacher in Miami says.

Unfortunately as Earth orbit becomes more and more crowded (the number of orbiting objects larger than 10 cm reached 10, 000 in 2007 and is still increasing) it increases the risk of a cascade effect, where one collision results in a cloud of debris that go on to cause more collisions resulting in millions of tiny fragments resulting in a major and ongoing hazard to space exploration.

Given the risk of hindering future space exploration – is it worth pushing for an Earth orbit cleanup (and is such an idea even feasible)?

[from the BBC][image from Joe Hastings on flickr]


Happy birthday, ISS!

Edward Willett @ 20-11-2008

ISS Break out the cake and light the candles, the International Space Station is 10 years old today (November 20). (Via Phys.org.)

The Russians launched the first part of the station from Kazakhstan on November 20, 1998; the second piece was carried up by the space shuttle two weeks later, and the first astronauts and cosmonauts arrived two years after that. Since then it has travelled 1.3 billion miles, orbited 57,300 times, and hosted 167 people from 15 different countries. Currently there are ten people aboard, and with the new additions and improvements, courtesy of the current Endeavour mission, the ISS will soon be able to host six people for long-term missions, up from the current three.

I feel a song coming on. Feel free to join in.

“Happy birthday to you, happy birthday to you, happy birthday dear ISS, happy birthday to you…”

(Or, if you prefer, watch this video of STS-126 Commander Chris Ferguson and Expedition 18 Commander Mike Fincke marking the event in orbit.)

(Image: NASA.)

[tags]space,International Space Station, space stations, NASA[/tags]


The Internet will go interplanetary

Tom Marcinko @ 19-11-2008

NASA finished first tests on a system that

could one day be used to automatically relay information between Earth, spacecraft, and astronauts, without the need for humans to schedule transmissions at each point. …

For the test, dozens of images of Mars and its moon Phobos were transmitted back and forth between computers on Earth and NASA’s Deep Impact spacecraft. The craft, which sent an impactor into Comet Tempel 1 in 2005, has been renamed “Epoxi” now that it its mission has been extended to search for extrasolar planets.

Further tests will begin on the International Space Station next year.

[Story: New Scientist; picture: NASA/JPL]


Noordung space station pic

Tom James @ 19-11-2008

NASA has a nice image by Herman Potočnik (aka: Hermann Noordung), who created the first technical drawings of space stations (of which a small segment is shown here), which were published in 1929.

More info on Herman Potočnik can be found at this memorial centre web page.

[via Warren Ellis][picture is part of this image from NASA]


NASA gets serious about recycling water

Tom Marcinko @ 14-11-2008

When you make that long trip to the planetary system of Fomalhaut, what are you going to drink? New York Times reporter and all-around brave person John Schwartz reports:

How does distilled urine and sweat taste? Not bad, actually…

Your intrepid reporter opened one of the bottles of “Purified Recycled Water” that Mr. [Robert] Bagdigian [leader of the project to recycle stuff on the International Space Station] brought with him. The wryly worded label was a little intimidating: “We use only the finest ingredients! Urine, Perspiration, Food Vapors, Bath Water, Simulated Animal Waste, and a touch of Iodine. No Carbs or Calories Added.”

With that as my verbal drum roll, I took a sip. Aside from a slight tang of iodine, it tasted like, well, water. I’ve had tap water that tasted much more like things I don’t want to think about.

The $250 million water recovery system is on its way to the station, “preparing our home in space for a larger international family,” as NASA’s spokesperson couches it. The system will recycle about 90 percent of the water used aboard the station and could pay for itself in a couple of years. Astronauts don’t seem worried; one of the first customers for the system, Sandra H. Magnus, says: “We drink recycled water every day, on a little bit longer time scale.”

[Apparently my water is OK for space by tom.glanz]


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