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NASA's Fermi Spacecraft Dodged a Defunct Russian Satellite 47

Posted by Soulskill
from the evasive-maneuvers dept.
g01d4 writes "On March 29, 2012, NASA scientists learned that the space agency's Fermi Gamma-ray Space Telescope was headed for a potential conjunction (close approach) with Cosmos 1805, a defunct Russian satellite from the Cold War era. The team knew that the only way to move Fermi would be to fire thrusters designed to move the spacecraft out of orbit at the end of its operating life. On April 3rd, shortly after noon EDT, the space agency fired all thrusters for one second. When it was over, everyone involved 'just sighed with relief that it all went well.' By 1 p.m., the spacecraft had returned to its mission."
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NASA's Fermi Spacecraft Dodged a Defunct Russian Satellite

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  • by bobbied (2522392) on Wednesday May 01, 2013 @07:18PM (#43605209)

    Oh man, where do you start with this?

    In LEO, orbiting debris are a self limiting problem. They will eventually deorbit on their own. So I guess that's not an issue for you.

    In Geosynchronous orbit, every object is going to be pretty much moving in exactly the same direction anyway so the relative velocity is really small. The risk of collision is pretty small and the debris created would be minimal at low collision energies.

    Outside these two areas, collecting orbiting debris, which vary in size from a few tons down to a few grams is a daunting task at best. How do one would imagine this could be done is the stuff of science fiction at best. Any collection system would by definition need to collect varying sized objects passing though a huge (by human standards) volume. This means there will need to be some pretty large structures launched, flown in space, survive the impact of collecting the desired objects and dispose of the collected mass. All this will need to happen without adding to the problem....

    I just don't see how we are going to do this.

    Personally, mankind would be better off if we took a debris mitigation strategy that required all launched hardware be mindful of not creating debris in orbits that would not naturally reenter within 5 years or so. We do this kind of thing now, at least the responsible people throwing most of the stuff in to space do, no telling what DPRK does.

    Other than that, we might want to start thinking about building "space tugs" that can capture the junk that's collecting in geosynchronous orbit, tug it to less popular locations and work on ways to recycle parts of it. It sure doesn't seem worth the effort to deorbit the stuff that is that high up.

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