Sunday, February 15, 2009

More Debris added to Earth Orbit

It had to happen, sooner or later.

Last week recorded the first major incidence of two satellites accidentally merging their orbits to self-destruction.  U.S. communications satellite Iridium 33 and Russian communications satellite Kosmos 2251 destroyed each other in the collision. The Russian craft, originally launched in 1993, had stopped working a couple of years after it reached orbit. The question on many space nuts minds at this time, is whether or not the Kosmos craft was "out of control" at the time. 

Russia has had no comment.

NASA is now reporting that the US Space Surveillance Network estimates the debris cloud at about 500 pieces, racing along at an altitude of about 485 miles up. The ISS space station is at a lower altitude, about 190 miles, so the debris does not pose a huge risk to the astronauts and cosmonauts yet.  However, Earth observer satellites are up at that altitude and could encounter some risk. The Hubble Space Telescope, at about 350 miles up, may be in risk depending on how the debris cloud expands.

I can't help but wonder if the Iridium Corporation (which has over 60 of the Iridium satellites in its network) will be suing the Russians. I would!

Friday, February 6, 2009

50 YA: Titan I Test Launch

The Titan series of rockets is one of my favorites - and today marks the 50th anniversary of the first test launch of a prototype Titan ICBM, called the A3, from the Cape Canaveral station. Of course, by 1959, ICBM development was in full swing as the nation tried to create superior launch missiles against the Soviet Union and their successful heavy launch rockets. Eventually, the Titan series would develop into a wonderful satellite launcher and the propulsion for the Gemini spacecraft- but that was in the future.

I couldn't find a photograph of the actual launch of the A3, but it would have looked very similar to the Titan I in the above picture. To find a good overall history of Titan I development, just look up Titan I on Wikipedia. If anyone finds some other cool resources on the web, let me know!

For my younger readers from the Space Center, "ICBM" stands for InterContinental Ballistic Missile, those big heavy lift rockets that would launch one or more nuclear bombs to the other side of the planet. When I was very young, people were terrified by the thought that the world could experience a nuclear war. Fortunately, we didn't. Yet.