Debris Cloud From Chinese ASAT A Menace To Space Lanes
The debris cloud from the recent Chinese anti-satellite (ASAT) missile test has circled the globe, forming what experts declare to be a menace to any craft or satellite in low earth orbit.
(Chinese ASAT debris cloud circles the
The Chinese ASAT, a ballistic missile tipped with a destructive device, was launched on January 11th, 2007. It destroyed an old weather satellite - the Fengyun-1C spacecraft. As of today, the US military Space Surveillance Network has cataloged or is tracking more than 900 bits of debris from the explosion that are at least ten centimeters in diameter.
However, the total number of objects from this single incident reaches into the tens of thousands. NASA estimates that the number of debris fragments larger than one centimeter exceeds 35,000.
"Any of these debris has the potential for seriously disrupting or terminating the mission of operational spacecraft in low Earth orbit. This satellite breakup represents the most prolific and serious fragmentation in the course of 50 years of space operations,” said NASA’s Nicholas Johnson, Chief Scientist for Orbital Debris at the space agency’s Johnson Space Center in Houston, Texas.
(Space.com: Chinese ASAT Test)
The cloud extends from less than 125 miles to more than 2,292 miles; this range encompasses all of low Earth orbit. Chief Scientist Johnson states that "“This satellite breakup represents the most prolific and serious fragmentation in the course of 50 years of space operations."
According experts quoted in the New York Times today, the Chinese ASAT test brought closer the danger of chain reaction, or cascade, of collision events in which fragments collide with each other, creating even more objects. This would precipitate what has been called the Kessler Syndrome, after Donald J. Kessler, a former head of the orbital debris program at NASA, in which launches from Earth would become impossibly dangerous owing to the risk of collision.
Mr. Kessler frankly calls the syndrome an exaggeration. But there is no doubt that, with a single test, the Chinese government has made near space a more dangerous place for everyone.
Science fiction authors have long been concerned about debris in space. Arthur C. Clarke even proposed a solution: Operation Cleanup.
For two hundred years, satellites of all shapes and sizes, from loose nuts and bolts to entire space villages, had been accumulating in Earth orbit... Three-quarters of this material was abandoned junk, much of it long forgotten. Now it had to be located, and somehow disposed of.
Fortunately, the old orbital forts were superbly equipped for this task.
(Read more about Operation Cleanup)
Until orbital forts become available, you might want to read up on these practical solutions to the problem of space debris:
And what about "space lanes?" This is an old science fiction term referring to the idea that there were settled routes through space, similar to the sea lanes long established by mariners. One early science fiction writer to mention space lanes was Carl Jacobi, in his story Cosmic Teletype, published in Thrilling Wonder Stories in 1938.
Update 09-Feb-2007 I've located the quote from the Jacobi story; read more about space-lanes from the October, 1938 issue of Thrilling Wonder Stories. (End update.)
Read more at Space.com: Chinese ASAT Test and
Space Junk (NYTimes).
Scroll down for more stories in the same category. (Story submitted 2/6/2007)
Follow this kind of news @Technovelgy.
| Email | RSS | Blog It | Stumble | del.icio.us | Digg | Reddit |
you like to contribute a story tip?
Get the URL of the story, and the related sf author, and add
Comment/Join discussion ( 2 )
Related News Stories -
Russian Space Garden
'We saw the gardens, flooded with artificial sunlight...' - Harley S. Aldinger, 1932.
Make Space Tools On The Spot (Like Moties)
'A moment ago it was squeezing silver toothpaste in a ribbon...' - Niven and Pournelle, 1974.
Bacteria Behave Differently In Space
'The Republic struggled to control its Sours...' - Bruce Sterling, 1985.
SpaceX Spacesuit Design Transmitted By Elon Musk
Welcome, SpaceX, to the club of space suit imaginers and makers.
Technovelgy (that's tech-novel-gee!)
is devoted to the creative science inventions and ideas of sf authors. Look for
the Invention Category that interests
you, the Glossary, the Invention
Timeline, or see what's New.
effie Automated Ironing Appliance
'Household Automata received an urgent task to develop production units of бытовые тканевые разглаживатели - a household fabric smoother.'
BabyX AI Real Enough For You
'...what's to keep me from showing face, Man? I'm showing a voice this instant... I can show a face the same way.'
We Could Downgrade Puerto Rico - And Thereby Save It
'It was cheaper to pay the refugees to go without up-to-the-minute equipment.'
Pegasus, Nvidia Supercomputer For Autonomous Driving
'...a 2045 convertible with a Hennis-Carleton positronic motor and an Armat chassis.'
Loihi Chip Mimics Human Brain's Neurons And Synapses
'You can hook a Thorsen tube into a control circuit... and the tube will "remember" what was done and can direct the operation...'
Self-Assembling Bacteria Build A Pressure Sensor
Nature is a master of fabricating structured materials consisting of living and non-living components.
3D Printed Artificial Muscles Are Stronger Than Yours
Bots don't need to work out.
Fog Computing (AKA Edge Computing) Ad Hoc Networks
'The tiny devices chirped their impulse codes at one another...'
Dubai Scorpion Police Hoverbike Ready To Pull Young Kirk Over
'Is there a problem, officer?'
Korean Tesla Model S Video 'Excelsior' Is Indeed Our Motto
'Improving man by bringing him close to Nature, while they combine the sensations of coasting with the interest of seeing the country well...'
HEXA Robotic Help For Plants
Then some unknown race had chanced upon the dreamers and decided to "help them out."
DIY Robot Shoots You In The Face
'...there were automatic guns that fired ligamine darts.'
A Bayesian Approach to Safe Imitation Learning For AIs and Robots
Um, how about that pension for the humans who serve as the models for robot behavior?
Qoobo Headless Robotic Therapy Cat Was Anne McCaffrey's Idea
'...used as surrogates in intense dependency cases.'
Autonomous Cars Talk To Each Other At MCity
'My cars talk to one another.'
PUFFER Robots - From Philip K DIck's Second Variety?
'Across the ground something small and metallic came, flashing in the dull sunlight of midday.'
More SF in the News Stories
More Beyond Technovelgy science news stories