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Oct 23 2014

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You learn something new every day

Here’s an article about a satellite maneuvering to avoid some space debris, a topic about which I know an awful lot.

My general take is that there are a lot of alarmists out there, and while it is a subject that bears watching, we’re not close to a scenario like “Gravity” occurring. By looking at graphics like this one:
Space Debris
You’d think that, in LEO in particular, you couldn’t swing a dead cat without hitting some space debris. Yet the satellite in the article (Suomi NPP) has been maneuvered 4 times since its launch in 2011 to avoid debris. In short, it’s an issue, but it’s an issue we’re on top of. Yes, there are a vast majority of tiny debris that we can’t track, but aside from the occasion windshield crack, they’re too small to do much damage even at the high speeds they’re traveling.

Anyway…I didn’t know this:

In addition, there are also natural events that help control debris. The sun is currently going through a period known as solar maximum, the term for a high period of solar activity. The increased number of sunspots and solar storms during solar maximum takes place approximately every 11 years. During this period, the extent of Earth’s atmosphere increases due to solar heat generated by the increased amount of solar activity. As the atmosphere extends to higher altitudes, debris at these altitudes are then subjected to increased friction, known as drag, and as a result, space debris typically fall to Earth at a higher rate during solar maximum.

Permanent link to this article: http://www.newspaceraces.com/2014/10/23/you-learn-something-new-every-day/

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