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Australia vs space junk

Professor Brian J. O'Brien FTSE

Professor Brian J. O'Brien FTSE

Apanda Anyuon, ECU Reporter

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Space junk is a growing problem. There are now so many satellites orbiting the earth that collisions are common place. Satellite Laser Ranging is the art of putting lasers on satellites that can measure the distance to other objects, in the hope that this information can reduce crashes, that produce more space junk.

The Space Environment Research Center (SERC) has announced that Australia will host the 21st International Workshop on Satellite Laser Ranging (IWSLR).

SERC researchers are tackling the problem of space junk through the enhancement of capabilities in tracking, characterising and identifying objects in orbit, orbit determination and predicting behaviours of space objects.

The workshop will happen late next year, in Canberra, from 5-9 November 2018. The IWSLR is a bi-annual event for members of the International Laser Ranging Service (ILRS).

The Workshop is expected to draw 200 delegates from leading international space agencies and space research centers with expertise in space and laser ranging.

This year the event is in Riga, Latvia, starting from 2-5 November and SERC is there, to present the latest research results on space debris mitigation and to undertake the first IWSLR technical committee meeting in preparation for the 2018 workshop.

This year Professor Brian O’Brien at the School of Physics, University of Western Australia gave a speech at the International Astronautical Congress on the 25-29 September 2017, which was attended by over 4000 people.

During his presentation Professor O’Brien discussed the problems caused by small objects in space, including dust.

“Apollo [moon landing] engineering priorities necessarily focused on risk management of astronaut life, dismissing the importance of dust … [but] movements of inescapable fine dust on the surface of the Moon, started by human activities and natural effects, caused Apollo astronauts and hardware many operational problems and failures,” he said.

SERC research to be presented at this year’s IWSLR Workshop includes satellite shape recognition with the Graz single photon counting system, automation of satellite laser ranging systems, relativistic orbit determination and analysis of recent satellite conjunctions with space debris.

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Quality journalism by ECU students
Australia vs space junk