The Irony. ClearSpace-1 Couldn’t Clean up Space Debris Because its Target Already Got hit by Space Debris, Creating Even More Space Debris.
We have a problem.
Ever since the launch of Sputnik 1 in 1957, we have been launching debris into space. Everything from space stations and large communication satellites to small CubeSats. With each launch, we also add things such as rocket parts and paint chips to the orbital pile. Right now there are more than a million objects orbiting Earth wider than a centimeter, and at least 130 million millimeter-sized objects. Most of it isn’t going to deorbit any time soon.
Orbits are so cluttered now that the International Space Station and other crewed missions often have to shift orbits from time to time to avoid collisions. There have been several satellite impacts from debris, which of course makes more debris. If we follow our current launch projects, there will come a time when collisions are common, leading to what is known as the Kessler cascade. Collisions make debris, and debris makes collisions, in a runaway process that makes survival in orbit impossible.
Kessler cascades have been portrayed in several works of fiction, from the Planetes manga to the movie Gravity. In Gravity the cascade is portrayed as happening suddenly, triggered just hours after the Russians destroy a test satellite. In reality, the process will be gradual. Like global warming, we know there will be a point of no return if we don’t change our ways. We just don’t know exactly where that hard line lies. Fortunately, there are several projects trying to solve this problem, one of which is a collaboration between the European Space Agency and a Swiss startup called ClearSpace.
A map of debris orbiting Earth. Credit: ESA – European Space Agency
The idea behind ClearSpace is to forcibly remove the largest and most dangerous debris by capturing it and forcing it to deorbit. Smaller debris will continue to be a problem, but if we can remove the big chunks it would be a great start. Currently, the ESA plans to launch a ClearSpace satellite in 2026 as a pilot mission. The goal will be to capture the Vega Secondary Payload Adapter (Vespa) upper-stage component, which was part of a launch in 2013. It’s about 100kg in mass and roughly 2 meters long.
The component doesn’t pose any major hazards, but it’s about the same size and mass as more dangerous satellites, and it is in a single solid piece. Or so we thought. Recent observations by the United States 18th Space Defense Squadron show that there are multiple objects orbiting near the adapter, and they weren’t there before. The new debris was likely caused by the hypervelocity impact of some small, untracked debris fragments. What was meant to be a simple mission is now complicated a bit by the new debris.
The ClearSpace team doesn’t think the new objects will pose a critical challenge, and the pilot mission is moving forward as scheduled. But these new observations emphasize just how important ClearSpace and similar missions are. Collisions are becoming more common, and the time for solutions is growing shorter.
You can learn more about the ClearSpace mission by checking out their website.
The post The Irony. ClearSpace-1 Couldn’t Clean up Space Debris Because its Target Already Got hit by Space Debris, Creating Even More Space Debris. appeared first on Universe Today.
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Iran Sent a Capsule Capable of Holding Animals into Orbit.
Despite popular opinion, the first animals in space were not dogs or chimps, they were fruit flies launched by the United States in February 1947. The Soviet Union launched Laika, the first dog into space in November 1957 and now, it seems Iran is getting in on the act. A 500kg capsule known as the “indigenous bio-capsule” with life support capability was recently launched atop the Iranian “Salman” rocket. It has been reported by some agencies that there were animals on board but no official statement has been released.
The Iranian Space Agency (ISA) are gearing up to getting humans into space before 2029 but is testing its launch capability with animal passengers. The capsule was launched on December 6 2023 and attained an orbital altitude of 130 kilometres. According to their Telecommunications Minister Isa Zarepour, it is aimed at sending Iranian astronauts to space by 2029.
The “Salaman” solid-fuelled rocket was designed by the aerospace division of the Ministry of Science, Research and Technology and built and launched by the Ministry of Defence and Armed Forces Logistics. It has already been used to launch a data collecting satellite and in 2013 successfully sent and returned monkeys into space.
Ham, a chimpanzee, became the first great ape in space during his January 31, 1961, suborbital flight aboard Mercury-Redstone 2 (Credit : NASA)
To date, only three counties have human spaceflight capability; USA, Russia and China. India are attempting to become the fourth as they work on their Gaganyaan program. Will Iran become the fifth!? Iran plans further tests with further launches bearing animal occupants before attempting to send humans up.
According to the Iranian Space Agency, its satellite program is purely for scientific research and other civilian applications. There is however, international suspicion because there are suspicions that the Salamn rockets could very easily be converted to long range missiles.
Source : Iran says it sent a capsule capable of carrying animals into orbit as it prepares for human missions
The post Iran Sent a Capsule Capable of Holding Animals into Orbit. appeared first on Universe Today.
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What Could a Next Generation Event Horizon Telescope Do?
Telescopes have come a long way in a little over four hundred years! It was 1608 that Dutch spectacle maker Hans Lippershey who was said to be working with a case of myopia and, in working with lenses discovered the magnifying powers if arranged in certain configurations. Now, centuries on and we have many different telescope designs and even telescopes in orbit but none are more incredible than the Event Horizon Telescope (EHT). Images las year revealed the supermassive black hole at the centre of our Galaxy and around M87 but now a team of astronomers have explored the potential of an even more powerful system the Next Generation EHT (ngEHT).
There is no doubt that our understanding of the processes within our Universe have come on leaps and bounds since the invention of the telescope. The resolution of these space piercing instruments is dictated by the telescope’s aperture. The technique known as interferometry hooks individual telescopes together and combines their signal so they act as one BIG telescope, boosting the resolution.
Telescopes like the EHT have been using interferometry to great advantage to study black holes. These enigmatic and mysterious stellar corpses defy our probing; we do not fully understand their origins and processes and indeed our laws of physics break down if you get too close to the point source in the centre, the singularity. Due to their interaction with space and time, understanding the full nature of black holes will – hopefully – unlock our understanding of the Universe.
Previously, observations have only revealed the movement of stars around galactic centre suggesting an object was lurking there weighing in at around 4 million times the mass of the Sun. Data from the EHT collected during 2022, finally revealed an image of the object at the centre – SgrA* – a super massive black hole and the matter in the immediate vicinity of the event horizon. Whilst this image did not reveal the black hole itself – another article required to explain that – it certainly revealed the telltale signs.
Sag A* compared to M87* and the orbit of Mercury. Credit: EHT collaboration
A recently published paper explores the possibilities of the ngEHT and how they might be able to unpick some of the physics around black holes. The ngEHT will increase the geographical footprint of EHT by 10 further instruments that span across the Earth. Making use of the significant improvement in resolution, the ngEHT will also improve image dynamics range, provide a multi-wavelength capability and facilitate long term monitoring.
The team conclude that future enhancements in measurement sensitivity and data analysis techniques in ngEHT will substantially advance our understanding of black holes and the immediate environments surrounding them with particular focus on the photon ring, mass and spin analysis, binary supermassive black holes and more besides.
Source : Fundamental Physics Opportunities with the Next-Generation Event Horizon Telescope
The post What Could a Next Generation Event Horizon Telescope Do? appeared first on Universe Today.
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Déjà vu All Over Again: Backpacking in Glacier National Park
By Michael Lanza
In the second week of September, the cool air in the shade of the forest nips at our cheeks as we leave our first night’s camp beside Glenns Lake in the backcountry of Glacier National Park, starting at a reasonably early hour for a day where we will walk nearly 16 miles and 6,000 feet of combined uphill and downhill. I’m hiking in a fleece hoodie, pants, and gloves and my friends Pam Solon and Jeff Wilhelm are similarly layered up. Once the sun reaches us within an hour, we’ll strip down to shorts and T-shirts.
Where the trail crosses a meadow, the expansive view west across a calm and insistently blue Cosley Lake reveals what looks like a long wall of overlapping stone shields jammed into the earth, each 2,000 or more feet tall and tilting at different angles. At the lake’s outlet—now in warm sunshine—we ford the Belly River, ankle- to calf-deep here with just a few tiny riffles and not very cold. More hiking through quiet forest brings us to the refrigerated, cliff-shaded alcove below Dawn Mist Falls, which spills thunderously over a sheer drop and crashes onto fallen boulders at its base, its force releasing a perpetual mist. Moss wallpapers the alcove’s short cliffs.
A backpacker hiking the Ptarmigan Tunnel Trail in Glacier National Park.
” data-image-caption=”Pam Solon backpacking the Ptarmigan Tunnel Trail in Glacier National Park.
” data-medium-file=”https://i0.wp.com/thebigoutside.com/wp-content/uploads/2022/12/Gla7-35-Pam-Solon-backpacking-the-Ptarmigan-Tunnel-Trail-in-Glacier-National-Park.jpg?fit=300%2C200&ssl=1″ data-large-file=”https://i0.wp.com/thebigoutside.com/wp-content/uploads/2022/12/Gla7-35-Pam-Solon-backpacking-the-Ptarmigan-Tunnel-Trail-in-Glacier-National-Park.jpg?fit=900%2C600&ssl=1″ src=”https://i0.wp.com/thebigoutside.com/wp-content/uploads/2022/12/Gla7-35-Pam-Solon-backpacking-the-Ptarmigan-Tunnel-Trail-in-Glacier-National-Park.jpg?resize=900%2C600&ssl=1″ alt=”A backpacker hiking the Ptarmigan Tunnel Trail in Glacier National Park.” class=”wp-image-61144″ srcset=”https://i0.wp.com/thebigoutside.com/wp-content/uploads/2022/12/Gla7-35-Pam-Solon-backpacking-the-Ptarmigan-Tunnel-Trail-in-Glacier-National-Park.jpg?resize=1024%2C683&ssl=1 1024w, https://i0.wp.com/thebigoutside.com/wp-content/uploads/2022/12/Gla7-35-Pam-Solon-backpacking-the-Ptarmigan-Tunnel-Trail-in-Glacier-National-Park.jpg?resize=300%2C200&ssl=1 300w, https://i0.wp.com/thebigoutside.com/wp-content/uploads/2022/12/Gla7-35-Pam-Solon-backpacking-the-Ptarmigan-Tunnel-Trail-in-Glacier-National-Park.jpg?resize=768%2C512&ssl=1 768w, https://i0.wp.com/thebigoutside.com/wp-content/uploads/2022/12/Gla7-35-Pam-Solon-backpacking-the-Ptarmigan-Tunnel-Trail-in-Glacier-National-Park.jpg?resize=150%2C100&ssl=1 150w, https://i0.wp.com/thebigoutside.com/wp-content/uploads/2022/12/Gla7-35-Pam-Solon-backpacking-the-Ptarmigan-Tunnel-Trail-in-Glacier-National-Park.jpg?w=1200&ssl=1 1200w” sizes=”(max-width: 900px) 100vw, 900px” data-recalc-dims=”1″ />Pam Solon backpacking the Ptarmigan Tunnel Trail in Glacier National Park.
After a thoroughly relaxing lunch break on the pebbly beach at Elizabeth Lake—where the perfect combination of solar warmth and soft breeze probably converts in direct value to about a thousand hours of counseling—we start the long climb to the Ptarmigan Tunnel. Reaching the open alpine terrain, I repeatedly stop to spin 180 degrees and take big bites of our view of the valley of Helen and Elizabeth lakes and the peaks on the other side, which shelter what remains of a couple of glaciers in the shade of north-facing cliffs just below the mountaintops.
I’ve backpacked this trail before; this isn’t new to me. But time slowly renders a bit fuzzier the memory of how constantly breathtaking it is—which is, in a funny way, a gift to us: We get to experience that awe anew each time.
Everyone laughed when the legendary Yogi Berra said, “It’s like déjà vu all over again,” but I think I knew what he meant.
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