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January 11, 2015

SpaceX launches fifth resupply rocket to International Space Station

SpaceX launches fifth resupply rocket to International Space Station

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Sunday, January 11, 2015

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Space transport services company SpaceX launched their fifth Dragon resupply vehicle to the International Space Station yesterday. The spacecraft — containing more than 2,200kg (5,000 pounds) of food, experiments, and spare parts — successfully decoupled from the launch rocket and should reach the station early tomorrow.

File photo of SpaceX headquarters.
Image: Bruno Sanchez-Andrade Nuño.

The launch was postponed from Tuesday because of a technical issue on the second stage of the rocket. The shipment includes replacements for cargo aboard the spaceship Cygnus, destroyed during a failed launch in October. Cygnus belonged to the rival Orbital Sciences Corporation.

SpaceX tried unsuccessfully to land the Falcon 9 delivery rocket for reuse. The rocket reached an unmanned barge in the Atlantic, but landed too hard. SpaceX CEO Elon Musk said the landing “bodes well for the future, though”. The attempted salvage of the rocket was experimental, using new retractable fins. Next time they will add extra hydraulic fluid, Musk said.

The ship’s support equipment was damaged but, according to Musk, the barge is intact. Last year saw two successful SpaceX splashdowns but landing on such a small target as a ship is unique.



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October 30, 2014

Launch failure occurs at Virginia spaceport

Launch failure occurs at Virginia spaceport

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Thursday, October 30, 2014

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Nasa Wallops Flight Facility Insignia
Image: Wallops Flight Facility.

A launch failure occurred at NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia on Tuesday.

The failure occurred when Orbital Sciences Corporation‘s Antares rocket, which was carrying the Cygnus vehicle with cargo of 5,000 pounds (about 2,300 kg), exploded after liftoff at 6:22 p.m. local time (2222 UTC), creating a massive fireball in the sky. Nobody was reported injured during the explosion, but the rocket was destroyed. The cargo was supplies for the International Space Station (ISS). Despite the explosion, the astronauts working on the ISS will not run out of food or supplies, according to a NASA statement released on Tuesday.

Orbital’s vice president Frank Culbertson said the contractor’s spacecraft will not fly until the cause of the failure is determined. NASA plans to continue the mission of delivering supplies to astronauts once it fully understands how this happened.

The rocket was to launch on Monday night, but a boat entered the hazard area, delaying the launch until the following night.

The cause of the explosion is under investigation by NASA and Orbital Sciences. NASA said the National Transportation Safety Board is monitoring the investigation.



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March 28, 2014

Soyuz TMA-12M arrives at International Space Station after delay

Soyuz TMA-12M arrives at International Space Station after delay

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Friday, March 28, 2014

Soyuz TMA-12M, a Russian spacecraft carrying a crew of three, arrived at the International Space Station (ISS) at 2353 UTC yesterday, after a technical setback prevented a planned rendezvous and docking on Tuesday.

Soyuz TMA-12M launches from Kazakhstan to the International Space Station.
Image: NASA/Bill Ingalls.

The spacecraft, which launched from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan at 2117 UTC on Tuesday (3:17 AM, Wednesday local time), was originally scheduled to dock with the space station at 0304 UTC on Wednesday. It was not in the proper orientation to execute one of the engine burns required as part of the expedited rendezvous procedure used since last year, however, and docking with the ISS was delayed until yesterday. The mission reverted to the flight plan used on Soyuz flights to the ISS previously: a longer, two-day, 34-orbit rendezvous.

The precise cause of the malfunction has not yet been publicly announced, but NASA said Wednesday, all systems aboard the Soyuz appeared to be functioning normally despite the setback which prevented a docking approximately six hours after launch. Also according to NASA, engineers understand the issue and have developed methods to prevent a recurrence on a future flight and the crew was never in any danger.

Soyuz TMA-12M successfully docked with the station 252 miles (406 km) above Brazil at 2353 UTC yesterday, with hatch opening between the two spacecraft occurring at 0235 UTC today.

On board the Soyuz were two Russian cosmonauts: Commander Aleksandr Skvortsov and Flight Engineer Oleg Artemyev, as well as one NASA astronaut: Flight Engineer Steven Swanson. TMA-12M is a return to space for both Skvortsov and Swanson, who are making the trip for the second and third times, respectively. Artemyev is visiting space for the first time.

Filling out the full six person contingent on the station, they join three Expedition 39 crew members aboard the ISS: Japanese astronaut and station commander Koichi Wakata, NASA astronaut Richard Mastracchio and Russian cosmonaut Mikhail Tyurin. They launched aboard Soyuz TMA-11M in November of last year and were the sole inhabitants of the station since the departure of Soyuz TMA-10M on March 11.

Skvortsov, Artemyev and Swanson are to become the crew of Expedition 40 when TMA-11M is scheduled to depart in May with Wakata, Mastracchio and Tyurin aboard, at which time Swanson is to assume command of the station. The trio are slated to remain aboard the orbital outpost for approximately six months, until TMA-12M undocks in mid-September and returns to Earth.



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March 29, 2013

Soyuz TMA-08M launches to International Space Station

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Friday, March 29, 2013

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Soyuz TMA-08M, a Russian spacecraft with a crew of three aboard, launched from Kazakhstan to the International Space Station (ISS) Thursday at 20:43 UTC (2:43 AM Friday, local time) and docked with the orbital outpost at 2:28 UTC on Friday.

Christopher Cassidy, Pavel Vinogradov, and Aleksandr Misurkin (pictured left-to-right) launched Thursday to the ISS on a record-breaking flight, arriving just under six hours after liftoff.
Image: NASA/Robert Markowitz.

Soyuz TMA-08M is the first manned Soyuz spaceflight to follow a new flight plan which allowed the spacecraft to dock with the ISS in a record-breaking time of approximately six hours, or four orbits, rather than the usual two days. This new flight plan, described as “a fast track to the International Space Station” by NASA spokesman Josh Byerly, had been tested successfully prior to Thursday’s launch by three unmanned Progress cargo ships delivering supplies to the station.

The three-member crew of the mission consists of two Russian cosmonauts, Commander Pavel Vinogradov and Flight Engineer Aleksandr Misurkin, and one U.S. astronaut, Flight Engineer Christopher Cassidy. Soyuz TMA-08M is the third spaceflight for Vinogradov and the second for Cassidy. Aleksandr Misurkin is making his maiden trip into space aboard the mission.

The Soyuz spacecraft docked with the ISS at 2:28 UTC on Friday, about four minutes ahead of schedule and just short of six hours after liftoff. After docking with the station, the hatches separating the Soyuz and the ISS are to be opened at about 4:10 UTC, after which the new crewmembers will be welcomed aboard by the three-man crew currently aboard the outpost, Russian cosmonaut Roman Romanenko, Canadian astronaut Chris Hadfield, and U.S. astronaut Thomas Marshburn.

The combined six-person Expedition 35 space station crew is slated to perform scientific research and prepare for upcoming departures and arrivals of other spacecraft. The next of these is scheduled for April 15 when Progress M-17M is to undock from the station. The trio already aboard the ISS—consisting of Romanenko, Hadfield, and Marshburn—are to depart and return to Earth aboard Soyuz TMA-07M on May 14, leaving the Soyuz TMA-08M crew behind. Soyuz TMA-09M, also using the new flight plan, is scheduled to arrive at the ISS with three new crewmembers two weeks later on May 28.

Soyuz TMA-08M—with Vinogradov, Misurkin, and Cassidy aboard—is scheduled to return to Earth on September 11, after approximately six months in space.



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Soyuz TMA-08M launches to International Space Station, arrives in record time

Soyuz TMA-08M launches to International Space Station, arrives in record time

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Friday, March 29, 2013

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Soyuz TMA-08M, a Russian spacecraft with a crew of three aboard, launched from Kazakhstan to the International Space Station (ISS) Thursday at 20:43 UTC (2:43 AM Friday, local time) and docked with the orbital outpost at 2:28 UTC on Friday after following a flight plan enabling a docking in record time.

Christopher Cassidy, Pavel Vinogradov, and Aleksandr Misurkin (pictured left-to-right) launched Thursday to the ISS on a record-breaking flight, arriving just under six hours after liftoff.
Image: NASA/Robert Markowitz.

Soyuz TMA-08M is the first manned Soyuz spaceflight to follow a new flight plan which allowed the spacecraft to dock with the ISS in a record-breaking time of approximately six hours, or four orbits, rather than the usual two days. This new flight plan, described as “a fast track to the International Space Station” by NASA spokesman Josh Byerly, had been tested successfully prior to Thursday’s launch by three unmanned Progress cargo ships delivering supplies to the station.

The three-member crew of the mission consists of two Russian cosmonauts, Commander Pavel Vinogradov and Flight Engineer Aleksandr Misurkin, and one U.S. astronaut, Flight Engineer Christopher Cassidy. Soyuz TMA-08M is the third spaceflight for Vinogradov and the second for Cassidy. Aleksandr Misurkin is making his maiden trip into space aboard the mission.

The Soyuz spacecraft docked with the ISS at 2:28 UTC on Friday, about four minutes ahead of schedule and just short of six hours after liftoff. After docking with the station, the hatches separating the Soyuz and the ISS were opened at 4:35 UTC, after which the new crewmembers were welcomed aboard by the three-man crew currently aboard the outpost, Russian cosmonaut Roman Romanenko, Canadian astronaut Chris Hadfield, and U.S. astronaut Thomas Marshburn.

The combined six-person Expedition 35 space station crew is slated to perform scientific research and prepare for upcoming departures and arrivals of other spacecraft. The next of these is scheduled for April 15 when Progress M-17M is to undock from the station. The trio already aboard the ISS—consisting of Romanenko, Hadfield, and Marshburn—are to depart and return to Earth aboard Soyuz TMA-07M on May 14, leaving the Soyuz TMA-08M crew behind. Soyuz TMA-09M, also using the new flight plan, is scheduled to arrive at the ISS with three new crewmembers two weeks later on May 28.

Soyuz TMA-08M—with Vinogradov, Misurkin, and Cassidy aboard—is scheduled to return to Earth on September 11, after approximately six months in space.



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November 27, 2012

Agencies choose yearlong crew for International Space Station

Agencies choose yearlong crew for International Space Station

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Tuesday, November 27, 2012

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Astronaut Scott J Kelly
Image: NASA.

Astronaut Mikhail Korniyenko
Image: NASA/Bill Stafford.

NASA and Roscosmos have chosen the crew for a year long stay at the International Space Station. Data collected may help in future manned exploration of the solar system.

Scott Kelly and Mikhail Korniyenko have been chosen by NASA and Roscosmos respectively. The two are veterans of ISS spaceflight and were chosen for their station experience and skill.

“Their skills and previous experience aboard the space station align with the mission’s requirements. The one-year increment will expand the bounds of how we live and work in space and will increase our knowledge regarding the effects of microgravity on humans as we prepare for future missions beyond low-Earth orbit” said NASA administrator William Gerstenmaier.

The pair are to launch sometime in the spring of 2015 from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan and return in spring 2016. Possible NASA deep space mission destinations include near earth asteroids, the Moon, and Mars.



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November 19, 2012

Expedition 33 crew returns to Earth

Expedition 33 crew returns to Earth – Wikinews, the free news source

Expedition 33 crew returns to Earth

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Monday, November 19, 2012

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Recovery forces receive the astronauts.
Image: NASA/Bill Ingalls.

Three astronauts return to Earth today, after touching down safely in Kazakhstan aboard their Soyuz capsule in the pre-dawn hours of Monday morning. The landing marks the culmination of a 127 day mission to the international space station, and only the fourth time a Soyuz capsule has landed at night in its missions to the International Space Station (ISS).

Astronauts Yuri Malenchenko, Sunita Williams, and Akihiko Hoshide were carried to reclining chairs to help them re-acclimate to gravity after being extracted from the sideways capsule by Russian recovery forces. The astronauts bundled up in their recliners as air temperature at the site hit -11°C (12°F).

The group started their trip to the ISS on July 15 launching from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan. In their four and a half month stay on the station they completed a variety of different studies including the effects of microgravity on the human spine and studying melting glaciers. They also were aboard to receive the first commercial shipment made by SpaceX’s Dragon cargo resupply mission.

“It was a beautiful departure. It was just beautiful to watch the ship fly away,” said Kevin Ford, now the current commander of the ISS. Ford was passed command of the ISS after in a change of command ceremony on Saturday. During the ceremony Williams remarked, “I think we’ve left the ship in good shape and I’m honored to hand it over to Kevin.”

Upon approval of the medical team Williams and Hoshide will return to Houston, Texas, while Malenchenko heads back to Star City, Russia.



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Expedition 33 crew returns to Earth, soyuz lands in Kazakhstan

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Monday, November 19, 2012

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Recovery forces receive the astronauts.
Image: NASA/Bill Ingalls.

Three astronauts return to Earth today, after touching down safely in Kazakhstan aboard their Soyuz capsule in the pre-dawn hours of Monday morning. The landing marks the culmination of a 127 day mission to the international space station, and only the fourth time a Soyuz capsule has landed at night in its missions to the International Space Station (ISS).

Astronauts Yuri Malenchenko, Sunita Williams, and Akihiko Hoshide were carried to reclining chairs to help them re-acclimate to gravity after being extracted from the sideways capsule by Russian recovery forces. The astronauts bundled up in their recliners as air temperature at the site hit -11°C (12°F).

The group started their trip to the ISS on July 15 launching from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan. In their four and a half month stay on the station they completed a variety of different studies including the effects of microgravity on the human spine and ice cap studies. They also were aboard to receive the first commercial shipment made by SpaceX’s Dragon cargo resupply mission.

“It was a beautiful departure. It was just beautiful to watch the ship fly away,” said Kevin Ford, now the current commander of the ISS. Ford was passed command of the ISS after in a change of command ceremony on Saturday. During the ceremony Williams remarked, “I think we’ve left the ship in good shape and I’m honored to hand it over to Kevin.”

Upon approval of the medical team Williams and Hoshide will return to Houston, Texas, while Malenchenko heads back to Star City, Russia.



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May 18, 2012

Expedition 31 crew members arrive at International Space Station

Expedition 31 crew members arrive at International Space Station

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Friday, May 18, 2012

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The crew of Soyuz TMA-04M wave to spectators before boarding their International Space Station-bound rocket Tuesday.
Image: NASA/Bill Ingalls.

The Soyuz TMA-04M spacecraft, which launched on Tuesday, arrived at the International Space Station yesterday with three members of the Expedition 31 long duration mission.

The Soyuz rocket launched on May 15 at 3:01:23 UTC (9:01:23 AM local time) from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan. On board were Russian cosmonauts Gennady Padalka and Sergei Revin, as well as NASA astronaut Joseph Acaba.

The Soyuz spacecraft arrived at the International Space Station on May 17, approximately two days after launch, at 4:36 UTC. After docking, the Soyuz crew joined fellow Expedition 31 crew members Oleg Kononenko, European Space Agency astronaut Andre Kuipers, and NASA astronaut Donald Pettit, who wished Acaba a happy 45th birthday.

Kononenko, Kuipers, and Pettit are currently slated to return to Earth in early June, at which point Padalka, Revin and Acaba—the most recent additions to the ISS crew—will become members of Expedition 32. The trio are scheduled to be the only occupants of the space outpost until the arrival of the remainder of the Expedition 32 crew aboard Soyuz TMA-05M, currently slated for July 17.

During their time aboard the station, Padalka, Revin, and Acaba will perform research in ecology, medicine, and space technology. They are expected to remain aboard the International Space Station until mid-September, after which they will return to Earth to conclude a mission of approximately 125 days in space.



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September 10, 2011

Out of space in outer space: Special report on NASA\’s \’space junk\’ plans

Out of space in outer space: Special report on NASA’s ‘space junk’ plans

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Saturday, September 10, 2011

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Computer-generated plot of tracked objects as seen from outside geosynchronous orbit
Image: NASA Orbital Debris Program Office.

A 182-page report issued September 1 by the United States National Research Council warns that the amount of debris in space is reaching “a tipping point”, and could cause damage to satellites or spacecraft. The report calls for regulations to reduce the amount of debris, and suggests that scientists increase research into methods to remove some of the debris from orbit, though it makes no recommendations about how to do so.

NASA sponsored the study.

A statement released along with the report warns that, according to some computer models, the debris “has reached a tipping point, with enough currently in orbit to continually collide and create even more debris, raising the risk of spacecraft failures”. According to the Satellite Industry Association, there are now about 1,000 working satellites in Earth orbit, and industry revenues last year were US$168 billion (£104.33 billion, €119.01 billion).

Sources and danger of debris

A simulation of the collision of debris and a spacecraft, conducted at NASA’s Ames Research Center
Image: NASA.

The debris consists of various objects, such as decommissioned satellites and exhausted boosters, but the vast majority of the particles are less than one centimetre across. 16,094 pieces of debris were being tracked as of July, although estimates put the current number at over 22,000. The total number of fragments is thought to be as high as tens of millions. While most of the debris is very small, some of it is travelling at speeds as high as 17,500 mi h-1 (28,164 km h-1; 7,823.3 m s-1).

The International Space Station sometimes has to dodge larger fragments, and in June its crew was forced to prepare to evacuate due to a close encounter with debris.

The UK Space Agency told Wikinews that space flight “is likely to be made more difficult” by the debris. However, communications will “[n]ot directly” be affected, “but if the GEO ring became unusable, there is no other altitude at which objects appear [‘]geo-stationary[‘] and so all antennas on the ground would then have to move in order to track the motion of the satellites”.

Donald J. Kessler, the lead researcher and former head of NASA’s Orbital Debris Program Office, said that “[t]he current space environment is growing increasingly hazardous to spacecraft and astronauts,” and suggested that “NASA needs to determine the best path forward for tackling the multifaceted problems caused by meteoroids and orbital debris that put human and robotic space operations at risk.”

Cquote1.svg The current space environment is growing increasingly hazardous to spacecraft and astronauts Cquote2.svg

Donald J. Kessler

Two events are thought to be the largest individual sources of space debris. Kessler said that “[t]hose two single events doubled the amount of fragments in Earth orbit and completely wiped out what we had done in the last 25 years”.

The first of these was a controversial 2007 Chinese anti-satellite weapon test, which smashed the decommissioned weather satellite Fengyun-1C into approximately 150,000 fragments over a centimetre in size—making up roughly twenty percent of all tracked objects—537 miles above the Earth’s surface.

The Chinese government has so far failed to respond to Wikinews’s queries regarding the incident.

The other is a 2009 collision between twelve-year-old active satellite Iridium 33 and the defunct Russian Strela-2M satellite Kosmos-2251—both weighing in excess of 1,000 lbs (454 kg)—that occurred 490 miles over Siberia, the first such collision. The Iridium satellite was replaced within 22 days, according to Iridium Communications, who operated it.

An Iridium Communications satellite similar to Iridium 33
Image: Cliff.

Cquote1.svg We believe this is a substantial first step in better information sharing between the government and industry and support even more robust interaction which can provide better and more efficient constellation operation. Cquote2.svg

Iridium Communications

In a statement released to Wikinews, Iridium Communications said that they “received no warning of the impending collision. Although commercial projections of close encounters (commonly called conjunctions) were available, the accuracy of those projections was not sufficient to allow collision avoidance action to be taken.” They also made the assurance that the Air Force Space Command and United States Strategic Command now provide them with information through the Joint Space Operations Center, and that “when necessary, [they] maneuver [their] satellites based on this information to avoid potential collisions. [They] believe this is a substantial first step in better information sharing between the government and industry and support even more robust interaction which can provide better and more efficient constellation operation.”

Iridium expressed their support for “[l]ong-term investment to improve Space Situational Awareness” and “[i]mproved information sharing between industry and the U.S. government”, as well as more “[g]overnment support for policy and processes which would permit sharing of high-accuracy data as required to allow reliable assessment and warning” and “[i]ncreased cooperation between the government and U.S. and foreign commercial operators.”

They maintained that “the Iridium constellation is uniquely designed to withstand such an event. Because of the resilient and distributed nature of the Iridium constellation, the effects of the loss of a single satellite were relatively minor”, and that “any other system, commercial or military, which experienced the loss of a satellite, would have suffered significant operational degradation for a period of months if not years.” Nonetheless, the company is “concerned over the increasing level of risk to operations resulting from the debris in space.”

Clean-up

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The report makes more than thirty findings, and more than twenty recommendations to NASA. None of the recommendations regard how to clean up the debris. However, it does cite a report by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), which suggested various possible techniques for catching and removing space debris, such as magnetic nets.

Cquote1.svg The Cold War is over, but the acute sensitivity regarding satellite technology remains Cquote2.svg

—George J. Gleghorn

However, international law does not allow one country to collect another’s debris. George J. Gleghorn, vice chair of the committee, observed that “[t]he Cold War is over, but the acute sensitivity regarding satellite technology remains”.

The debris will, in time, be pulled into the earth’s atmosphere—where it will burn up—by gravity, but more debris is being created faster than this can happen.

Cquote1.svg The problem of space debris is similar to a host of other environmental problems and public concerns Cquote2.svg

—National Research Council’s report

The report recommends collaborating with the United States Department of State on “economic, technological, political, and legal considerations.” As already mentioned, international law does not allow one country to collect another’s debris.

Cquote1.svg It is best to treat the root cause, the presence of debris in orbit, and remove the large objects before they can break up into many thousands of uncontrolled fragments capable of destroying a satellite on impact. Cquote2.svg

UK Space Agency

According to the report, “[t]he problem of space debris is similar to a host of other environmental problems and public concerns characterized by possibly significant differences between the short- and long-run damage accruing to society … Each has small short-run effects but, if left unaddressed, will have much larger impacts on society in the future.”

A spokesperson for the UK Space Agency told Wikinews that the organisation “does not have any plans to get directly involved with [the clean-up] initiative but through its involvement with NASA in the Inter-Agency Space Debris Coordination Committee, it is conducting studies to identify which objects present the biggest hazard and how many objects may need to be removed and from where.” It says that the viability of such an operation is “a question of treating the symptom or the cause of the problem. Building more physical protection is costly and if the environment deteriorates too far, becomes unviable. It is best to treat the root cause, the presence of debris in orbit, and remove the large objects before they can break up into many thousands of uncontrolled fragments capable of destroying a satellite on impact.”

The spokesperson also pointed out that “[u]nder current licensing regimes (such as in the UK), countries are now obliging operators to remove satellites from crowded regions of space at the end of operational life”.

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Sister links

  • Wikipedia-logo-v2.svg Space debris
  • Wikipedia-logo-v2.svg Kessler syndrome

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