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Electronics & Test
Disposable Satellite System Sees Soldiers
5/16/2012

An artist's concept depicts how DARPA's SeeMe program would work. The program aims to design disposable satellite clusters that will give soldiers location-based information in places where they  would typically not have satellite coverage.   (Source: DARPA)
An artist's concept depicts how DARPA's SeeMe program would work. The program aims to design disposable satellite clusters that will give soldiers location-based information in places where they
would typically not have satellite coverage.
(Source: DARPA)

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Mydesign
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Use & Throw Satellites
Mydesign   5/16/2012 5:47:01 AM
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Elizabeth, finally satellites are also coming to use and throw way. I think the GPRS services are providing through a consortium of different satellites at different orbits, so for GPRS navigation, the range or line-of-sight may not be a problem. But if GPRS technology is using for military purpose, security and privacy may be an issue. There are also other options like networking of satellites for communication and geo tagging etc are feasible mechanisms with the country.

naperlou
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Re: Use & Throw Satellites
naperlou   5/16/2012 9:08:16 AM
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@Mydesign, one of the reaons you have not seen satellites that are inexpensive and simple is the economics of launch.  This has been something that the military has been working on for a long time.  So, while it is not a big deal to design the satellite to a price, it is the inexpensive (and on-demand) launch capability that is the issue. 

My father worked on a program, in last century of the last millenium, that attempted to build a launch system for such satellites utilizing a super gun.  These are very large cannon.  The idea was originally developed by the Germans in WWII, I believe.  That concept relied on being close to the equator.  Some of his colleagues got to spend several months on a Caribean island. 

Charles Murray
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Re: Use & Throw Satellites
Charles Murray   5/16/2012 6:36:53 PM
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Naperlou, thanks for your thoughts on the launch issue. My first reaction when I saw this video is, how can they launch so easily? (Anyway, it looks easy in the video.) NASA's fabled X-programs spent decades trying to launch aircraft (like the National Aerospace Plane) into space, with limited success. They found that flying into space is difficult. That's why NASA spent so many years dropping gigantic multi-million-dollar booster rockets into the ocean. So how are they able to launch these things into space with such apparent ease?

ChasChas
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Re: Use & Throw Satellites
ChasChas   5/17/2012 11:15:07 AM
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The President Clinton answer is that it depends on what space is.

Very low orbit altitude is reached by some balloons and the X-15. It's not very useful for most space exploration, but for this application it is fine. It'll stay up for a few months.

Charles Murray
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Re: Use & Throw Satellites
Charles Murray   5/17/2012 5:25:26 PM
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Thanks, ChasChas. So how do we define "very low orbit?"

ChasChas
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Re: Use & Throw Satellites
ChasChas   5/17/2012 5:49:44 PM
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Low orbit altitude is defined as 100 - 1240 miles high. Any pilot that goes over 50 miles up or higher gains an astronaut rating. The lower the orbit, the lower the speed needed. I don't know what altitude will sustain a satellite for 3 months, but I would think it can lower than 100 miles.  Anyone?

Mydesign
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Space junk items and collisions
Mydesign   5/16/2012 6:00:52 AM
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Elizebeth, now a days the junk items and garbage's are causing many issues for space stations and satellites. Sometimes collisions are happening between these garbages with space vehicles and satellites causing damages to the satellites. So scientists are planning for a mechanism to clean up the space junk items for smooth navigation of space vehicles and satellites.

 More details are available from sciencenewsforkids.org

Beth Stackpole
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Re: Space junk items and collisions
Beth Stackpole   5/16/2012 7:09:07 AM
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@mydesign: Are you saying there is so-called junk or garbage littering the new frontier of space before any human population gets its hands on it in terms of day to day living? That's a pretty scary thought.

Rob Spiegel
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Re: Space junk items and collisions
Rob Spiegel   5/16/2012 12:07:47 PM
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Yes, Beth, there is a bunch of space debris. According to NASA, there are 21,000 pieces: http://orbitaldebris.jsc.nasa.gov/faqs.html#3

It's all man-made. It includes things such as a space glove. NASA tracks it. One piece of something almost hit the space station earlier this year.

TJ McDermott
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Re: Space junk items and collisions
TJ McDermott   5/16/2012 1:55:32 PM
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Beth, it's a very real problem.  In the last years of operation the space shuttles suffered several impacts.  They've had several windows pitted with paint chips, and a radiator took a pretty substantial hit.

The final stage of satellite boosters often goes into orbit.  Those that are liquid-fueled, if simply abandoned, have been known to explode from the residual fuel and oxidizer.  The resultant debris cloud is much worse than just an empty stage.  Most launch companies now provide a means of venting the fuel after releasing the payload to prevent this sort of occurrance.

In 2009, a first-of-its-kind collision occurred between two whole satellites.  An Iridium communications satellite was nailed by a Russian Cosmos satellite.  The velocities involved are measured in kilometers per SECOND.

http://www.space.com/5542-satellite-destroyed-space-collision.html

Think of the debris created when a Formula 1 car hits the wall at 200 kilometers per HOUR.

There is money to be made in clearing the orbitals of junk (Paging Andy Griffith!)

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Salvage_1

 

Beth Stackpole
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Re: Space junk items and collisions
Beth Stackpole   5/16/2012 3:23:29 PM
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I guess I'm either naive or aren't as up to date on the current state of space exploration. I am absolutely appalled by that news. Does anyone know if we have programs to clean it up or if that is even possible? What happens to the debris--it just floats around forever?

Ann R. Thryft
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Re: Space junk items and collisions
Ann R. Thryft   5/16/2012 6:35:06 PM
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Beth, space junk has been a growing problem for decades. The idea of sending yet more trash into orbit appalls me, too. The only "disposable" products of any kind we should be making these days should be compostable or recyclable. The myth that things can be thrown "away" becomes even m ore obvious when you look at space junk. There is no "away" in a closed system.

TJ McDermott
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Re: Space junk items and collisions
TJ McDermott   5/17/2012 12:19:24 AM
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Beth, it depends on how high the debris is.  Junk in LEO will come down by itself, eventually.  Skylab did, as did Kosmos 954 (scattered radioactive debris over a 600 km swath of Canada in 1978).  They were in fairly low orbits.

The toolbag that slipped away from a spacewalking astronaut in November 2008 eventually reentered in August 2009.  The space station orbits at about 230 miles above the surface.

The higher the junk is, the longer it stays up.  Satellites in geosynchronous orbit (22,000 miles aren't going to come down, which poses a different problem.  The geosynchronous orbit is unique (a satellite orbiting the equator at that altitude appears motionless to an observer on the ground), and the real estate there is precious.  When geosynch satellites are decommisioned, they now get boosted even higher, up out of that special orbit, to make room for new satellites.

Cleaning up the orbitals is going to cost.  Getting some sort of device up there to pick up the garbage is going to cost $2000-$10000 per POUND just to get the device into orbit.


Rob Spiegel
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Re: Space junk items and collisions
Rob Spiegel   5/17/2012 12:06:23 PM
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In the articles I've seen on space debris, I haven't seen anything about clean-up. Not sure you can. NASA is tracking it, though. As for a satellite that disposes of itself, I don't see how that happens in space unless it is sent into the atmosphere, which would burn it up.

 

Beth Stackpole
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Cost deferential
Beth Stackpole   5/16/2012 7:11:10 AM
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The price point on these "disposal" satellites is intriguing. I'm wondering specifically is there are any guidelines or requirements in the specification for these units that denote material choices or design approaches that would push the price of these units down so significantly. Seems like a pretty big jump.

apresher
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Disposable Satellites
apresher   5/16/2012 8:15:29 AM
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Beth, I agree with you on the questions that this raises.  Half a million dollars may be a lot less expensive but still ...   Interesting technology approach.

Rockymtnrick
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Re: Disposable Satellites
Rockymtnrick   5/17/2012 11:48:59 AM
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It's good these satellites are launched in a way they become self-disposing.  But touting the price ignores the cost/benefit ratio.  Yes, they are a fraction of the cost, but you get a small fraction of the capacity, for a small fraction of the coverage area, for a small fraction of the day, for a small fraction of the nominal service life of other SATCOM systems.  There is nothing lost in looking at technologies, and plenty to be gained from a pragmatic evaluation of the VALUE of these kinds of solutions.  Sometimes it just makes sense to spend more, add another future-junk-satellite to the list, and get greater utility out of our tax dollar.

Larry S.
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Two words ...
Larry S.   5/16/2012 11:47:03 AM
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Star Wars

YJ77
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Re: Two words ...
YJ77   5/17/2012 11:29:55 PM
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Hearkens back to Dale Brown's novel Sky Masters, fictional company producing NIRSATs [Need It Rightnow Satellites]

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