Traffic in orbit?

A group of researchers at the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory has developed and tested the mini- earth satellites that will eventually be used in space to help control traffic in low orbits. The risk of collision with space debris is getting higher.


LEO stands for low Earth orbit and is the region of space within 2,000 km of the Earth’s surface. It is the most concentrated area for orbital debris.


The low orbits around the Earth (LEO) and geostationary are increasingly clogged with space debris and satellites, active or retired. For years we looked for new ways to clean up the space around our planet from wrecks more and more dangerous and to recycle materials still in good condition for future missions. Recently, however, a group of researchers at the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory has thought of mini- earth satellites to adjust the “traffic” in space.

What did they do? Brian Bauman, Vincent Riot, Darrell Carter, Lance Simms and Wim De Vries used a series of six images taken in an observation period of 60 hours from a satellite to prove that you can change and redefine the orbit of a satellite.


“Our mini- satellite will be useful to prevent collisions between satellites and between satellites and space debris,” said Simms, who led the research which will be published in the Journal of Small Satellites. It is no longer a secret that collisions in space are a serious problem that the space agencies around the world cannot and must not ignore any longer. Rockets, lost pieces from the ships and even small fragments of paint particles created by collisions and explosions are dangerous for other missions and also for the astronauts of the International Space Station. The debris is orbiting the Earth at speeds up to 36,000 kilometers per hour. And there have been a few incidents over the years.

For this reason, the researchers thought the mission BE ( Space-Based Telescopes for Actionable Refinement of Ephemeris ), a series of nano- satellites in low Earth orbit that will re-calculate the orbits of satellites and space debris at risk, with a margin of error less than 100 meters, where there is still free space.



The GEO images are images generated from a distant oblique vantage point to provide a good view of the object population in the geosynchronous region (around 35,785 km altitude). Note the larger population of objects over the northern hemisphere is due mostly to Russian objects in high-inclination, high-eccentricity orbits.


For now, the research team has already changed the orbit of the satellite NORAD 27006, after only 24 hours of observation and predicted its new trajectory of at least 50 meters in the next 36 hours. All of these actions were remotely controlled from Earth. And this will be the task of STARE. But doing the calculations will not be easy because of the many variables to consider. The atmospheric resistance, for example, is a function of the shape and mass of the satellite as the density and composition of the atmosphere. All things are to consider when you want to move an object to another orbit. The precision of the movements, in such cases, it is important because objects are likely to collide with other satellites.

To avoid these types of errors, caused by the movement and speed, the Space Surveillance Network (SSN) must observe repeatedly about 20,000 objects. The margin of error is, so far, by a mile. This lack of precision leads to about 10,000 false alarms provided for collision. With these large uncertainties satellite operators are rarely motivated to move their objects after a collision warning was issued. The mission STAY promises to reduce the margin of error of 100 meters or even less to reduce false alarms.

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