Starlink Satellites Are Still Bright

Starlink
An artist's conception of the Starlink constellation encircling the Earth. Credit: SpaceX

The new generation of Starlink satellites remain above the accepted brightness threshold.

It’s one of the stranger sights of the modern Space Age. Recently, we found ourselves under the relatively dark skies of southern Spain. Sure enough, within a few minutes, we caught sight of a chain of flashing ‘stars’ winking in and out of view in quick succession.

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NASA is Building a Mission That Will Refuel and Repair Satellites in Orbit

Illustration of OSAM-1 (bottom) grappling Landsat 7. Credits: NASA

NASA is planning a mission to demonstrate the ability to repair and upgrade satellites in Earth orbit. The mission, called OSAM-1 (On-orbit Servicing, Assembly, and Manufacturing-1), will send a robotic spacecraft equipped with robotic arms and all the tools and equipment needed to fix, refuel or extend satellites’ lifespans, even if those satellites were not designed to be serviced on orbit.

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Antarctica Lost an Ice Shelf, but Gained an Island

The eastern coast of Antarctica has lost most of the Glenzer and Conger ice shelves, as seen in these satellite images taken between November 15, 1989 - January 9, 2022. Credit: NASA GSFC/UMBC JCET.

Collapsing ice shelves on the eastern coast of Antarctica has revealed something never seen before: a landform that might be an island. But this is not the first newly revealed island off the Antarctic coast. A series of islands have appeared as the ice shelves along the continent’s coastline has disintegrated over the past few years.

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What Would a Sustainable Space Environment Look Like?

A map of space debris orbiting Earth. Credit: European Space Agency

October 4th, 2022, will be an auspicious day as humanity celebrates the 65th anniversary of the beginning of the Space Age. It all began in 1957 with the launch of the Soviet satellite Sputnik-1, the first artificial satellite ever sent to orbit. Since that time, about 8,900 satellites have been launched from more than 40 countries worldwide. This has led to growing concerns about space debris and the hazard it represents to future constellations, spacecraft, and even habitats in Low Earth Orbit (LEO).

This has led to many proposed solutions for cleaning up “space junk,” as well as satellite designs that would allow them to deorbit and burn up. Alas, there are still questions about whether a planet surrounded by mega-constellations is sustainable over the long term. A recent study by James A. Blake, a research fellow with the University of Warwick, examined the evolution of the debris environment in LEO and assessed if future space operations can be conducted sustainably.

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A Chinese Space Tug Just Grappled a Dead Satellite

This graphic shows a satellite in geostationary orbit. Image Credit: NASA

A Chinese satellite pulled a defunct navigation satellite out of the way of other satellites on January 22nd. The satellite, called SJ-21, appeared to operate as a space tug when it grappled onto the navigation satellite from the Chinese CompassG2 network. The operation details didn’t come from Chinese authorities but a report by ExoAnalytic Solutions, a commercial space monitoring company.

Chinese authorities are tight-lipped about the operation, but what can observations tell us about Chinese capabilities?

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The Recent Killer Tornado’s Track is Visible From Space

On December 12, 2021, the Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) on NASA’s Aqua satellite acquired this natural-color image of the tornado track across western Kentucky near Mayfield. This area endured some of the worst damage of the fierce storm front. Credit: NASA/NOAA.

During the night of December 10, 2021, severe weather tore through several US states, Arkansas, Illinois, Kentucky, Mississippi, Missouri and Tennessee. At least 70 tornado-like events were reported, and one storm cell was tracked on radar for approximately four hours as it traveled for more than 400 km (250 miles.)

While the destruction these storms left behind is visible even from space, the heartbreaking devastation on the ground is sobering; over 100 people killed, with hundreds more injured.

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Rocket Lab Shows off its new Reusable Neutron Rocket, due for Launch in 2024

Credit: Rocket Lab

On December 2nd, 2021, the commercial space company Rocket Lab unveiled the detailed architecture of their Neutron rocket for the first time. In a live-streamed event, the company showcased all the new elements that will make this “megaconstellation” launcher a serious contender in the coming years. These include updated details about the rocket’s design, materials, propulsion, and reusability architecture.

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Landsat 9’s First Images are Here

Landsat 9 carries two instruments designed to work together to capture a broad range of wavelengths: the Operational Land Imager 2 and the Thermal Infrared Sensor 2. Data from both instruments are shown in this image. Credits: NASA

The latest satellite in the Landsat family of Earth observation spacecraft has collected its “first light” images of our planet. Landsat 9 launched on September 27, 2021 and it continues the 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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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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Landsat 9 Joins a Fleet of Earth Observation Satellites

Landsat 9 lifted off from Vandenberg Space Force Base on September 27, 2021 on an an Atlas V 401 rocket. Credit: NASA

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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