Lasers and Neural Network Help Spot Space Debris Accurately
Human space activities have led to a new problem - space debris. It consists of all the human-made objects in the Earth's orbit which are not useful anymore like dysfunctional satellites, spent rocket stages, unburned particles from rocket motors et al.
It's bit tricky to accurately spot the space junk in Earth's orbit. The Chinese scientists and engineers have developed a new system to accurately spot the space litter. It makes use of laser telescopes accompanied by neural networks to do the job.
The system is quite accurate. Tianming Ma, researcher from Chiense Academy of Surveying and Mapping informed that with the latest improvements in the system, junk with cross-sectional area of 1 meter squared can be accurately spotted from a distance of about 1500 kilometers.
The Space debris is a growing problem. As the Guardian describes it - being hit by a sugar-cube sized particle of space debris is equivalent to standing next to an exploding hand-grenade. The ISS has been successfully dodging most of it
Fragments of the space debris, as small as 1 cm have the potential to destroy the entire satellites - because of the speed at which they travel in space.
In 2009, the aerospace community was shocked by the collision of defunct Russian military communications satellite Kosmos 2251 with functional commercial American communications satellite called Iridium 33. The collision led to disintegration of Kosmos 2251, creating about 2000 pieces of debris - each about 10 cm in size.
There are several issues associated with controlling the space debris. A disintegrated satellite, for example, is still a property of the country that it belonged to. It's therefore not easy to start pulling objects out of the sky even if they pose a danger to new spacecrafts.