Thursday, November 05, 2009

As Space Collision Threat Looms, Pentagon Upgrades Its Monitoring of Satellites

Space Junk An artist's impression of space debris in low-Earth orbit. The U.S. government wants a better surveillance system to keep track of the thousands of space junk pieces. ESA

By Jeremy Hsu on the Popular Science website

The U.S. Air Force has upgraded its ability to predict possible satellite collisions, as the risk from space debris increases

Satellites currently must dodge an ever-growing gauntlet of other satellites and clouds of space debris, and this year the Pentagon has quietly upgraded its surveillance accordingly. The U.S. military announced yesterday that it now tracks 800 maneuverable satellites, compared to less than 100 prior to a February collision between an active U.S. satellite and a retired Russian communications satellite.

That crash served as a wakeup call and emphasized the vulnerability of U.S. satellites, according to General Kevin Chilton, commander of U.S. Strategic Command. Reuters reports that the Air Force also plans to track an additional 500 non-maneuvering satellites by the end of year, and thereby keep tabs on the roughly 1,300 active satellites currently in orbit.

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