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Space debris poses real-life 'Gravity' threat

Posted on Thursday, 7 May, 2015 | Comment icon 7 comments

Astronauts on a spacewalk during the STS-116 mission. Image Credit: NASA
The events of the hit movie could become a reality thanks to the large amounts of junk in Earth's orbit.
In the movie 'Gravity' Sandra Bullock ends up fighting for survival after debris from a satellite kick-starts a chain of devastation high up in orbit around the planet. While many of the sequences in the film are a little far-fetched, the scenario of a spacecraft being put in danger by pieces of space junk is actually very real.

Scientists at the University of Southampton have this week highlighted the risks posed by even the tiniest pieces of space debris which can prove just as destructive as the larger ones.

Some of this debris is thought to have come from satellites such as the US defence satellite DMSP F13 which exploded back in February producing more than 50,000 tiny fragments.

"Even though many of these objects will be no bigger than the ball in a ballpoint pen, they can disable a spacecraft in a collision because of their enormous speed," said Dr Hugh Lewis.

"In the case of the DMSP-F13 explosion, our work has shown that the introduction of a new cloud of small-sized debris into orbit will have increased the risks for other spacecraft in the vicinity, even if the risk from the larger fragments has been discounted."

Satellites currently thought to be most at risk include two Met Office weather satellites, two US military satellites, a US earthquake tracking satellite and a Canadian disaster management system.

The team's findings highlight the dangers posed by the ever-growing threat of space debris and the importance of coming up with effective new ways to remove existing pieces of space junk from orbit.

Source: Telegraph | Comments (7)

Tags: Gravity, Space Debris

Recent comments on this story
Comment icon #1 Posted by Nnicolette on 7 May, 2015, 23:17
Im interested in what the new research for junk removal will lead to. Keeping our atmosphere clear and clean?
Comment icon #2 Posted by Torviking on 8 May, 2015, 0:21
Like this is new ?
Comment icon #3 Posted by Infernal Gnu on 8 May, 2015, 1:10
Ohhhh noooo. Brain damage due to cosmic rays will stop deep space missions cold, and soon you won't even be able orbit the planet safely. Deflector shield research needs to become a top priority.
Comment icon #4 Posted by moon tide on 8 May, 2015, 2:54
Yes, it certainly makes me worry for the astronauts up there. The solar array of the ISS was struck by an object in 2013. Luckily it hit the solar array and not the hull of the spacecraft. http://astrobob.area...13/04/30/99246/
Comment icon #5 Posted by KeninGA on 8 May, 2015, 16:31
It isn't just space junk, it's all the junk in the solar system that gets caught in our gravity well. Meteors. micro-meteors, even dust particles the size of a grain of sand can reek havoc if they are travelling a gillion miles an hour. Personally, I think every nation that puts up a satellite or spacecraft should ultimately be responsible for any problems it causes and it safe and complete removal. The Chinese just demonstrated that it had an anti-satellite missile by destroying one of their own old weather satellites trouble was it's caused the ISS to make several course changes to avoid deb... [More]
Comment icon #6 Posted by qxcontinuum on 4 June, 2015, 1:50
i thought they already did. Look at what most of them are saying after coming back on Earth. they talk about ufo 's , dialog that never have taken place apparently.
Comment icon #7 Posted by badeskov on 4 June, 2015, 6:34
i thought they already did. Look at what most of them are saying after coming back on Earth. they talk about ufo 's , dialog that never have taken place apparently. Who talks about UFOs? Cheers, Badeskov

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