Bethesda MD (SPX) Dec 14, 2009
Last week NASA and DARPA sponsored the first-ever International Conference on Orbital Debris Removal. This was a completely unrestricted and open two-and-one-half intense days of "trash talk" about the nature of space debris, possible approaches to a solution and legal aspects.
Roughly 275 people registered for this landmark event. The room was full, and it stayed full throughout the conference. All elements of the space community were represented, including several foreign nationals, the insurance industry, policy gurus, program management types and even a large number of technical geeks. Overall, it was impressive and well done.
A few key enlightenments came out of the presentations and discussions. Space trash is here to stay. Even if we stopped flying anything into orbit, the debris population would continue to propagate and collisions would increase indefinitely.
Since the Iridium/Cosmos incident the Space Surveillance Network has expanded its conjunction predictions to cover 800 operating satellites, up from 300. The number of worrisome daily conjunctions has jumped from about 5 per day to about 75 per day, indicating that there are many more conjunction events than are being tracked. The big question that went unanswered is: Who will pay for the clean up?
Nobody knows at this point, and probably will not know or some time. Several suggestions were made, including the establishment of an international regulatory body with some remedial powers.
This is going to be a "tough sell" to many countries, because there appears to be a great deal of denial regarding the severity of the situation and a number of downright refusals to participate.
Nevertheless, stay tuned. Undoubtedly, the debate will continue over the next decade with little resolution. There seems to be only one thing that will accelerate a solution: another catastrophic satellite/satellite collision.
In the meantime, a good deal of technology and systems concepts will be focused on a problem that may not get a real solution for some time.
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Space Debris Removal Gets Visibility
Bethesda MD (SPX) Dec 07, 2009
After 50 years of trashing space and ignoring the mess, the possibility of cleaning up the debris is finally starting to get serious attention. A few months ago DARPA began an initiative to study the removal of space debris. In September, a Request for Information (RFI) was released soliciting ideas on the implementation of an orbital debris removal capability. The RFI sought ... read more
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