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Predicated satellite debris trajectory.  Image courtesy of Analytical Graphics, Inc. (www.agi.com)

Images, Video, Interactive Tools Provide Insight into Satellite Collision

12 Feb , 2009

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The unprecedented collision between two large satellites on February 10 has created a cloud of debris that likely will cause problems in Earth orbit for decades. To help understand the collision and potential future problems of the debris, Analytical Graphics, Inc., (AGI) of Philadelphia, working with its Colorado Springs-based research arm the Center for Space Standards & Innovation, has used its software to reconstruct the event, creating images and providing an interactive tool that allows the user to view the collision from any position or time. “We’ve worked around the clock since the collision to create these images and a video of the event,” Stefanie Claypoole, Media Specialist with AGI told Universe Today. “Our software can also assess the possibility of additional collisions by applying breakup models for debris prediction.”

AGI also has a video recreation of the event.



Debris cloud and predicated trajectories. Image courtesy of Analytical Graphics, Inc. (www.agi.com)

Debris cloud and predicated trajectories. Image courtesy of Analytical Graphics, Inc. (www.agi.com)


The collision occurred at approximately 1656 GMT between the Iridium 33 and Cosmos 2251 communications satellites. They collided about 800 km (490 miles) above Earth, over northern Siberia. The impact between the Iridium Satellite LLC-owned satellite and the 16-year-old satellite launched by the Russian government occurred at a closing speed of well over 15,000 mph. The low-earth orbit (LEO) location of the collision contains many other active satellites that could be at risk from the resulting orbital debris.
New debris, in red and previous debris, in green. Image courtesy of Analytical Graphics, Inc. (www.agi.com)

New debris, in red and previous debris, in green. Image courtesy of Analytical Graphics, Inc. (www.agi.com)


AGI and CSSI have a downloadable interactive viewer that allows users to recreate the event from any vantage point, or time.

Another tool called SOCRATES (Satellite Orbital Conjunction Reports Assessing Threatening Encounters in Space) is a service for the satellite operator community run by CSSI. What SOCRATES allows users to run conjunction analysis reports on satellites over a 7-day period, and identify close-approach situations and compare it against the entire NORAD TLE (two-line element sets) space catalog on an individual satellite or multiple satellites.

Sources: AGI, Rocket Girl Blog


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tegwilym
Member
February 12, 2009 2:50 PM

Wow, just like a volcanic eruption cloud almost. But we won’t get any pretty sunsets out of this. smile

Hans-Peter Dollhopf
Member
Hans-Peter Dollhopf
February 12, 2009 2:56 PM

“Explore Earth’s Satellites with Google Earth” at UT from September 25th, 2008.

robbi
Guest
robbi
February 12, 2009 2:59 PM

Geeeze, more junk to add the the equation!!

robbi
Guest
robbi
February 12, 2009 3:03 PM

dollhopf -Thank you for the date, I;ve checked Earths’ Satillites from Google Earth from time to time, not that date. Informative!!!!

Hans-Peter Dollhopf
Member
Hans-Peter Dollhopf
February 12, 2009 3:23 PM

You’re welcome, Robbi!

I still do not get the clue how to total the single masses of the 13,000 objects from the database in a speedy manner because I would like to know what the total volume is. Wouldn’t that be of interest for a future scrap metal merchant? All of this artificial satelites will be put out of service sooner or later.

sofista
Member
February 12, 2009 3:56 PM

[…] En la entrada anterior de esta serie dije que no tenía predicciones sobre la nube de desechos provocada por la colisión entre el Iridium 33 y el Cosmos 2251. Fue escribirlo y obtenerlos […] Vía Nancy Atkinson para Universe Today […]

Salacious B. Crumb
Guest
Salacious B. Crumb
February 12, 2009 3:58 PM
What effect will this have on observational astronomy? The other serious problem is the possibility of continuous cascade effect, where the probability of satellite collisions and fragmentation begin to increase exponentially. Clearly the future of satellite technology must include an redundancy package, which enable the object to be de-orbited or ejected well away from the Earth’s gravity field. Also the days of launching anything into space should be registered internationally, where contingency plans of the country who launched it have to be assessed and the considered risk exposed for all to see.. (This must be done almost immediately) It also means that the days of launching multiple satellites are gone, and instead are joined onto one solitary platform… Read more »
simon
Member
simon
February 12, 2009 4:39 PM

I wonder if it would be possible to use a magnetic field around a satellite to move debris out of harms way.

Oliver X
Guest
Oliver X
February 12, 2009 4:49 PM

Simon: imagine the strength of a magnetic field required to deflect something with the kinetic energy of a bullet. Now multiply that by an order of magnitude to account for orbital velocities. And another few orders of magnitude to account for debris that’s much larger than bullet-sized.

Now consider that magnetic fields aren’t much good for deflecting things unless they happen to be oppositely polarized – not true of random scraps of metal. Great for charged subatomic particles though.

formulaterp
Guest
formulaterp
February 12, 2009 6:30 PM
Salacious B. Crumb Says: “What effect will this have on observational astronomy?” Pretty much … none. “the future of satellite technology must include an redundancy package, which enable the object to be de-orbited or ejected well away from the Earth’s gravity field” Most already have this capability, to some extent. “the days of launching anything into space should be registered internationally … and the considered risk exposed for all to see” Especially the spysats right? We should let everyone know where they are at all times. “the days of launching multiple satellites are gone” Nonsense, it doesn’t lower the risk at all. In fact the additional launches will likely leave even more debris in orbit. “dedicated service missions… Read more »
Jacques
Guest
Jacques
February 12, 2009 10:53 PM

Every news source says that “NASA will be tracking the 10000+ debris from the collision closely”. Given that NASA can track carefully and precisely so many small debris, why can’t NASA predict large satellites collisions in advance (they are much larger and fewer, with carefully planned orbits…). Could the Iridium satellite have been steer away (even by a small amount)?

Jacques
Guest
Jacques
February 12, 2009 11:11 PM
Hans-Peter Dollhopf
Member
Hans-Peter Dollhopf
February 13, 2009 8:49 AM
Salacious B. Crumb Says: “Clearly the future of satellite technology must include an redundancy package, which enable the object to be de-orbited” formulaterp Says: “Most already have this capability, to some extent.” In my opinion: What a waste! I have not computed yet the worth of space “junk”. Also, I know that very much well trained people could do that much easier and much more accurate than I would be ever able to do. But for that reason, that neither I nor anybody else ever did an objective as well as visionary analysis, I still have this “vision” (do call me ignorant/arrogant/dreamy therefore – whatever fits to your private mental needs): that those once used and thus now… Read more »
Conic
Guest
February 13, 2009 8:54 AM

We have known for decades that space junk is a huge problem. Sadly, no one ever does anything about it. The space shuttle, if it had one unique use, was the ability to remove junk from space. I dont see why it doesnt, when ever possible, extend missions to allow the removal of large dead satellites.

Hans-Peter Dollhopf
Member
Hans-Peter Dollhopf
February 13, 2009 9:05 AM

Jacques Says:
February 12th, 2009 at 11:11 pm

Awesome! Thanks for these hints.

maudyfish
Guest
maudyfish
February 13, 2009 10:15 AM

If this debry is moving in two directions, how likely is it that it can crash on each other again and again?

Howard T
Member
February 13, 2009 11:35 AM

Possibly another use for the shuttle?

Bringing back dead satellites in it probably would not be a good idea, but attaching and deploying a conductive line would get them deorbited.

Using a tethered MMU to net up some might work in a dense debris field. Or not.

Salacious B. Crumb
Guest
Salacious B. Crumb
February 13, 2009 1:35 PM
dollhopf said; “(do call me ignorant/arrogant/dreamy therefore – whatever fits to your private mental needs):” Why would I ? You are entitled to your valid points of view! (and you are not name calling – unlike some others.) I wrote; “Clearly the future of satellite technology must include an redundancy package, which enable the object to be de-orbited.” This has to be done to keep the amount of satellites remaining in orbit at a reasonable number and not to increase it. This would be like an additional rocketry system that change the orbital velocity enough to cause a destructive de-orbit. Clearly proactive measures are required, but more often than not, these are not undertaken to reduce costs and… Read more »
Salacious B. Crumb
Guest
Salacious B. Crumb
February 13, 2009 2:45 PM
I just recalled an article by Tammy Plotner on this very subject at Universe Today, which will greatly aid the discussion here… On 27th September 2008, she said; “Is returning “space junk” a problem? You bet. In a very comprehensive article done by Nancy a few months ago called Space Debris Illustrated: The Problem in Pictures, she clearly illustrated how spent booster stages and discards from spacecraft could turn into a serious problem for future spaceflight if left unmonitored and uncontrolled. While the Russian return was expected, it’s still just another indicator of a mounting problem – inactive space hardware in orbit around the Earth . According to NASA Shuttle program director John Shannon, “Next month’s shuttle flight… Read more »
Frank Glover
Guest
Frank Glover
February 13, 2009 3:12 PM
“The space shuttle, if it had one unique use, was the ability to remove junk from space. I dont see why it doesnt, when ever possible, extend missions to allow the removal of large dead satellites.” The vast majority of them will be in orbits far too different from whatever the original purpose of the shuttle launch was (and other than the last Hubble upgrade, that would only be to service ISS). There’s also no safe (to those living downrange) means to launch the shuttle to polar orbit for objects there, even if you wanted to. In other words, it would almost never be possible to get a sat you wern’t already planning to reach. And then there’s… Read more »
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