Lockheed Martin to Start Tracking Space Trash from Australia

Lockheed Martin to Start Tracking Space Trash from Australia

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New trash tracking outpost will be built in Western Australia.

The skies are chock full of helpful technology, from GPS satellites to telescopes to the frozen head of Ted Williams. But for every satellite that's still in service, there's at least one that's outlived its purpose, floating about with nothing to do.

Some institutions like the U.S. Air Force already track such space debris, but Lockheed Martin is launching a new project to put a fresh pair of eyes on all the junk.

The new initiative is a joint venture between Lockheed Martin and Electro Optic Systems, with the new facility being built in Australia. Current debris-tracking systems rely heavily on radar systems, but the new Lockheed project will take a more zoomed-in approach.

"The site will use a combination of lasers and sensitive optical systems like those found in telescopes to detect, track and characterize man-made debris objects," said Lockheed Martin in its press release. "Electro-optical technologies that can zoom in on specific objects form a strong complement to radar-based systems like the U.S. Air Force's Space Fence, which will sweep the sky and track 200,000 objects."

The new project should be up and running in 2016, with the ability to track hundreds of thousands of space objects, some as small as your fist.

The data collected by the installation will be made available to both government and commercial customers, meaning this is not a strictly governmental affair. Needless to say, NASA and the USAF will be sure to make good use of the fresh new optics.

Source: WSJ | Lockheed Martin

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OK. Just in case anyone finds it mildly amusing, I first read that headline as 'Lockheed Martin to start tracking Australian space trash'.

busterkeatonrules:
OK. Just in case anyone finds it mildly amusing, I first read that headline as 'Lockheed Martin to start tracking Australian space trash'.

I read that as well, did someone modify the headline or something?

OT: I wonder how long it'll be before we are forced to start salvaging some of the trash floating up there. Sooner or later it'll get to the point where it'll get too crowded to ignore the issue. Besides there's tonnes of metal etc which we could recycle.

i wonder when we start taking care of it. theres so much trash floating around now that we are having trouble finding orbits for new sattelites that wont collide with said trash

Fighting the good fight against Kessler syndrome!

Makes sense ... Australia is surrounded by three oceans, close to the equator, and the continent itself is almost flat. Which makes observations of the ionosphere and beyond exceptionally easy.

Western Australia itself has very few mountain ranges, unlike the Eastern seaboard's Great Dividing Range.

Temporal_distortion:
Fighting the good fight against Kessler syndrome!

Kessler Syndrome presupposes that you have a cascade effect after multiple orbital craft colliding on a regular basis. So far there has only been 5 or 6 cases of space debris collisions ... so we're not even close to a Kessler Syndrome scenario. That being said, for the future of human space exploration ... you're right. We either deal with space trash now, or we may very well become marooned on Earth.

Doesnt matter how thick a hull you have, a collision by a screw travelling up to 17'500 mph is dangerous. Particularly if the craft is preparing re-entry (as, obviously, spacecraft tend to do when near Earth).

That being said, it's not the screws, bolts, nuts, etc most orbital craft have to worry about. It's the stuff you can't collect or sweep. Tiny particulates of coolant and the like from nuclear powered satellites ... travelling through a cloud of the stuff at speed will literally strip a spacecraft or satellite to pieces.

RicoADF:

busterkeatonrules:
OK. Just in case anyone finds it mildly amusing, I first read that headline as 'Lockheed Martin to start tracking Australian space trash'.

I read that as well, did someone modify the headline or something?

OT: I wonder how long it'll be before we are forced to start salvaging some of the trash floating up there. Sooner or later it'll get to the point where it'll get too crowded to ignore the issue. Besides there's tonnes of metal etc which we could recycle.

The sheer cost of getting the materials back to earth would make such an endeavour both uneconomical and environmental standpoint. Any trash returning to earth would be doing it Mir style, ie being de-orbited and sent into the ocean or just burning up on re entry.

Glad to see that these agencies are taking measures to curtail Kessler Syndrome before it becomes a serious hazard.

Ed130 The Vanguard:

The sheer cost of getting the materials back to earth would make such an endeavour both uneconomical and environmental standpoint. Any trash returning to earth would be doing it Mir style, ie being de-orbited and sent into the ocean or just burning up on re entry.

Returning to earth sure, but what if we use it up in space instead. Collect all the metal to build a larger ship in orbit. Realistically yes it would mostly just be burnt up in the atmosphere.

RicoADF:

Ed130 The Vanguard:

The sheer cost of getting the materials back to earth would make such an endeavour both uneconomical and environmental standpoint. Any trash returning to earth would be doing it Mir style, ie being de-orbited and sent into the ocean or just burning up on re entry.

Returning to earth sure, but what if we use it up in space instead. Collect all the metal to build a larger ship in orbit. Realistically yes it would mostly just be burnt up in the atmosphere.

Possibly, there were plans to use the space shuttles external fuel tank as components for a space station or raw materials but it fell through before the program was cancelled.

 

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