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 Earth)

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 |

Would you like to contribute a story tip? It's easy:
Get the URL of the story, and the related sf author, and add it here.

Comment/Join discussion ( 2 )

Related News Stories - (" Space Tech ")

NASA Misses $5Trillion Funding Boost
'This must be a golden planet—this little asteroid.' - Garrett P. Serviss, 1898.

LightSail Solar Sail Deploys
'This was the first time any solar yacht had ever attained it...'- Arthur C. Clarke, 1964.

Suit Up! Fifty Years Of Spacewalks Video
'I experienced for a few minutes the delicious, indescribable pleasure of being a little planet...'- Garrett P. Serviss, 1898.

Microbes To Terraform Mars?
'Terraform the little rock...'- Jack Williamson, 1941.

 

Google
  Web TechNovelgy.com   

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.

 

 

 

 

 

Current News

Hackers Can Take Control Of Cars From Anywhere In The World
'The car faltered as the external command came to brake...'

Armed Drone Opens Fire
'Each a television eye and a sonic stunner...'

Robotic Exoskeleton Releases Man From Wheelchair
'This man was standing on two corrugated-soled titanium footplates...'

Oh, Just Let Robots Run Airports
I'd like a friendly robot to help me at airports.

How Smart Should AI's Be Allowed To Get?
'Every AI ever built has an electromagnetic shotgun wired to its forehead'

NASA Misses $5Trillion Funding Boost
'This must be a golden planet—this little asteroid.'

Kuwait Creates Mandatory DNA Database For Citizens
And who has the largest DNA database on its citizens?

Please, Please Let There Be Regenerated Teeth
'Toothbud transplants...'

Google AI 'Deep Dreams' Kubrick's 2001
'I was only trying to do what I thought best....'

The BLITAB: First Tactile Tablet for Blind People
Absolutely amazing development - now blind people can read the web!

Why, Oh Why, Must We Develop Robots That Run Faster Than I Do?
'The legs are long, curled way up to deliver power, like a cheetah's.'

Golf Robot Putts Out
'The robot solemnly hit a ball against the wall, picked it up and teed it, hit it again, over and again...'

Computer Finds Cancer Doctors Miss
The computer will see you now.

Would Robot Taxis Ease Carbon Emissions?
'He emerged and flagged down a robot taxi...'

Brainwaves As Biometric Identification
'The doors of Mr. Lars, Incorporated, shut, tuned as they were to his own cephalic pattern.'

What-If Machine Concocts Creative Premises
'Books were just a commodity that had to be produced, like jam or bootlaces.'

More SF in the News Stories

More Beyond Technovelgy science news stories

Home | Glossary | Invention Timeline | Category | New | Contact Us | FAQ | Advertise |
Technovelgy.com - where science meets fiction™

Copyright© Technovelgy LLC; all rights reserved.