Launched Monitoring Program Weeks Before February 10
Last week's collision involving a defunct Russian satellite and
an active Iridium telecommunications relay station over Siberia
highlighted the dangers on-orbit debris represents to current and
future satellites, and even manned spacecraft. It also showed how
difficult it is to properly monitor the estimated 13,000 satellites
and pieces of man-made debris now in orbit around Earth.
The European Space Agency is taking steps to address the
situation. The agency launched its $64 million Space Situational
Awareness program in January... and weeks later, on February 10,
the world was shown why such a program is
"What the last accident showed us is that we need to do much
more. We need to be receiving much more precise data in order to
prevent further collisions," ESA space debris expert Jean-Francois
Kaufeler told The Associated Press.
Near the top of the priorities list for SSA are better
communication and information sharing between ESA, NASA, and
Russia's Roscosmos about locations of each agency's orbital probes
and vehicles. At best, such information is now given only in rough
estimates... and even those figures may be nebulous if the object
in question is tied to intelligence-gathering.
"We need more precision in space," said Kaufeler. "The current
measurements (of space debris) are not precise enough."
Kaufeler and other experts in space debris will meet this week
in Vienna, at a UN seminar called specifically to address those
concerns. The 5th European Conference on Space Debris will convene
at ESA in March.
Experts hope a universally-accepted standard in information
sharing may come from those conferences, in order to avoid a repeat
of last week's on-orbit collision... which spewed debris in all
directions, some pieces settling in orbits near the International
Space Station and along trajectories used by the US space shuttle
and other manned spacecraft.
"The problem of space debris is unique," said Kaufeler. "We need
to work together, we need to unify our forces if we are going to