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Home | Tag Archives: iss

Tag Archives: iss

Amy’s Everyday Astronomy: India Destroys Own Satellite, Creates Potential Danger for ISS

On March 27th, the Indian Defense Research and Development Organization (DRDO) did something few other countries have accomplished: they launched a missile that destroyed one of their own satellites in low Earth orbit, on purpose.

The successful missile test, named Mission Shakti, was revealed during a live televised address from the Indian Prime Minister, Narendra Modi. He stated that this test has made India a “space power”.

Initially, the orbit of the satellite was thought to be low enough that all the debris created from the blast would fall harmlessly back to Earth, where it would burn up completely upon re-entry. India’s Ministry of External Affairs affirmed that the risk of Mission Shakti was low, stating, “The test was done in the lower atmosphere to ensure that there is no space debris. Whatever debris is generated will decay and fall back onto the Earth within weeks.”

Unfortunately, it looks as though this might not be the case.

Though the satellite was destroyed at a relatively low altitude of 300km (186 miles), which is well below the ISS orbit, as well as that of most other satellites, NASA has increased the risk to the ISS by 44% in the last few days. This increased risk is due to NASA identifying 400 different pieces of orbital debris from the event.

While NASA is tracking 60 pieces that are 10cm (3.93 inches) or bigger, 24 of those have gone above the apogee of the ISS.

Jim Bridenstine, NASA Administrator, described the missile test as a “terrible, terrible thing” stating, “It’s unacceptable and NASA needs to be very clear about what its impact to us is. Intentionally creating orbital debris fields is not compatible with human space flight.”

Bridenstine went on to say, “The good things is, it’s low enough in Earth orbit that, over time, this will all dissipate.”

And indeed, the astronauts are thought to be safe for now. However, should the risk increase even more, the ISS can be moved out of the path of any dangerous debris, though NASA would rather not have to take this measure.

But this is not the only test of this type that has been performed. Back in 2007, China ran a similar test at a relatively high altitude which left potentially dangerous debris that are still in orbit to this day. And in 1985, the United States also used one of its own satellites for target practice.

Then, in 2008, the United States did so again when a highly classified reconnaissance satellite malfunctioned shortly after reaching orbit. Luckily, the debris from both of those tests are believed to have eventually fallen safely back to Earth.

There are potentially political ramifications to this recent test. Some feel that Indian policymakers are flirting with the idea of a more aggressive nuclear strategy. In this case, one of being able to disarm Pakistan of its nuclear weapons early in a crisis. Using a hit-to-kill interceptor to destroy a satellite in low Earth orbit is a very similar task to destroying a Pakistani nuclear-armed missile on a ballistic trajectory outside of Earth’s atmosphere.

Still, Prime Minister Modi claims that “India has no intention to threaten anyone. The main objective of our space program is ensuring the country’s security, its economic development, and India’s technological progress.”

The Prime Minister went on to say, “India has always been opposed to the weaponization of space and an arms race in outer space, and this test does not in any way change this position.”

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If you would like to know more about a particular space fact, or have questions about anything in the universe, send an email to acooley@epheraldpost.com, and you could be featured in an upcoming article.

For a daily dose of Everyday Astronomy with Amy, like and follow her Facebook Page; to read previous articles, click here.

Video+Story: Amy’s Everyday Astronomy: An Identified Flying Object

The skies have called to me since I was very young. Any time I am outside, you can find me constantly looking up toward the heavens. I find beauty in the poetry of the darkness.

As an astronomer, I definitely believe that we are not alone in the universe. That doesn’t mean I think little green men have come to probe humans or mutilate cattle. But I am ever interested in the search for what’s out there.

Last night, as I sat in a driveway in my car, I spotted a small point of light in the north. Immediately, my logical, scientific mind raced to find the answer to what I was seeing. There were no blinking lights, so that ruled out the possibility of a plane or drone. There was no noise, so that ruled out a helicopter.

I thought about how a just few days ago, SpaceX launched the Falcon 9 from southern California and residents here got a first hand look as its trajectory took it over northern Mexico.

However, the Falcon isn’t due for another launch just yet. So, that couldn’t be it.

Then I thought about the upcoming Draconids Meteor shower. But the movement was too slow, and the trajectory was all wrong to be something burning up in the atmosphere.

I pulled out my phone and began to shoot some video. I watched in awe as the object seemed to maintain a course nearly parallel to the ground. It traveled from west to east in the northern sky until it finally faded from view. Once it was gone, I called a friend of mine.

During the course of our conversation about what I had just experienced, it became apparent that what I had witnessed was the International Space Station flying overhead. I checked the website, and sure enough, the time of my sighting and where I saw the object correlated perfectly.

Mystery solved! My Unidentified Flying Object was now verified and identified.

I’d love to tell you that I have memorized the exact location of the ISS and all visible satellites in my head at all times, but that would be a lie. And while I’ve seen the ISS flying overhead in the past, usually that’s because I already checked out when and where it will be visible.

But tonight was different. I wasn’t expecting to see anything other than the usual bright planets and constellations. That’s what I see most nights. And an innocuous evening errand ending in my car in a driveway spotting something moving slowly through the sky was exciting, to be sure.

If you’d like to spot the ISS flying overhead, check out the official NASA website Spot The Station. It will tell you when and where you can expect it to be visible here in the borderland.

So, take it from me, you never know what you’ll see if you just keep your eyes to the skies.

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For a daily dose of Everyday Astronomy with Amy, like and follow her Facebook Page; to read previous articles, click here.

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