Not Just Sitting Ducks. Maybe Satellites Could Dodge Almost all Space Junk

Kessler syndrome is becoming more and more of a potential hazard as more and more companies vie to place more and more satellites in Low Earth Orbit (LEO).  But it will only get out of hand if a chain reaction of collisions happens, which could potentially cause a complete breakdown of orbital infrastructure.  

To combat that possibility, satellites currently attempt to dodge any debris that gets anywhere near them.  Now, a new paper by Dr. Jonathan Katz of Washington University, St. Louis, proposes a system that can accurately detect whether a piece of debris will impact a satellite and allow the satellite itself to move out of the way only for trash that will actually hit it.

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It’ll Soon be Possible to Make Satellite Phone Calls With Your Regular Phone

Not all who wander are lost – but sometimes their cell phone reception is.  That might change soon if a plan to project basic cell phone coverage to all parts of the globe comes to fruition.  Lynk has already proven it can use a typical smartphone to bound a standard SMS text message off a low-earth-orbiting satellite, and they don’t plan to stop there.

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Landsat 9 Joins a Fleet of Earth Observation Satellites

Earth has a new eye in orbit to monitor our changing planet.  

Landsat 9 launched on September 27, 2021 continuing the Landsat family of satellite’s nearly 50-year tradition of making critical observations to help with energy and water management, forest monitoring, human and environmental health, urban planning, disaster recovery and agriculture.

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A Tiny, Inexpensive Satellite Will be Studying the Atmospheres of hot Jupiters

The Colorado Ultraviolet Transit Experiment (aptly nicknamed CUTE) is a new, NASA-funded mission that aims to study the atmospheres of massive, superheated exoplanets – known as hot Jupiters – around distant stars. The miniaturized satellite, built by the Laboratory for Atmospheric and Space Physics (LASP) at the University of Colorado Boulder, is set to launch this Monday, September 27th on an Atlas V rocket.

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There’s Now a Gas Station… In Space!

According to the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS), over 4,000 operational satellites are currently in orbit around Earth. According to some estimates, this number is expected to reach as high as 100,000 by the end of this decade, including telecommunication, internet, research, navigation, and Earth Observation satellites. As part of the “commercialization” of Low Earth Orbit (LEO) anticipated in this century, the presence of so many satellites will create new opportunities (as well as hazards).

The presence of these satellites will require a great deal of mitigation (to prevent collisions), servicing, and maintenance. For example, the San Francisco-based startup Orbit Fab is working to create all the necessary technology for orbital refueling services for satellites. To help realize this goal, industry giant Lockheed Martin recently announced that they are investing in Orbit Fab’s “Gas Stations in Space™” refueling technology.

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NASA has too Many Spacecraft to Communicate With. Time to Build More Dishes

NASA is a sprawling organization that has to talk to everything from politicians in Washington DC to space probes that have left the solar system.  Discussions with the first might be as simple as a written letter for informal conversation, while the second requires a high-power network of ground-based antennas.  Known as the Deep Space Network (DSN) this series of antennas spread over three continents is the backbone of NASA’s communications with its various space probes. Now the DSN is in the process of implementing a well-deserved upgrade.

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Here’s Lake Mead’s Record Low Water Levels Seen From Space

How bad is the drought in the western United States? A stunning depiction of the record dry spell comes in images of Lake Mead, the reservoir formed by the Hoover Dam on the Colorado River. NASA satellite images, below, from Landsat 7 and Landsat 8 show the difference in lake levels between August 2000 and August 2021.

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After British Columbia’s Record-Breaking Heatwave, Here Come the Wildfires

Every day, there are more indications that show how anthropogenic factors are causing uncomfortable changes in our climate. Here in beautiful British Columbia, this means that wildfires are once again threatening countless acres of forests, communities, and wildlife. By the end of June 2021, more than 40 wildfires were raging across the province, including a rather substantial cluster around the town of Lytton.

Located just 150 km (about 93 mi) northeast of the city of Vancouver, Lytton, had to be evacuated on June 30th after an extreme heatwave led to wildfire sweeping through the area. These wildfires and the impact they were having at the time was being monitored by some of NASA’s Earth Observatory satellites. In a series of images recently shared on their website, they show the fires that were raging near Lytton just hours before the evacuation.

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Satellites can Track Microplastics From Space

Sometimes simple and elegant solutions are all that is needed to solve a problem.  One problem that was searching for a solution was how to track microplastics.  These small particles of plastics are what results after the sun and friction (such as ocean waves) break down larger plastic objects.  They have become a huge problem in the ocean, wreaking havoc on ecosystems and their constituent organisms.  Now, a team from the University of Michigan have used data originally collected to monitor hurricanes to try to track microplastics, potentially helping to reign in a problem that threatens to engulf the world’s oceans.

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