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News Link to Bush v. Kerry debate on the space program

  1. Oct 19, 2004 #1


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  2. jcsd
  3. Oct 23, 2004 #2


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    I don't have a very high opinion of NASA. I think NASA needs to assess the current space environment and figure out a new role for today. They aren't the seed for space programs anymore. The space industry is pretty healthy and NASA's just another player (they do provide valuable assistance to science and research missions). They should look for other ways to assist the general space community than their own active missions.

    For example, the only international reguation of satellite traffic is to reduce the chance of satellite radio frequencies interfering with each other and that's done by the International Telecommunications Union, not NASA.

    There's no traffic control of physical space. It's just assumed that a company with a satellite in the geobelt will make adequate disposal plans since they are the company most at risk when the time comes to launch a new satellite into that slot to replace the old.

    The lack of control especially becomes a problem when 'live' satellites are physically located in overlapping slots in the geobelt. If two satellites are coming a little too close too each other for comfort, who maneuvers their satellite out of the way? Right now, the satellite operators are usually not allowed to talk to each other, so both operators usually do nothing and hope for the best (it's more fuel efficient than both maneuvering only to find out they just made a collision even more likely).

    While there's a 'theoretical' way these things are resolved between US satellites, the military sector, the commercial sector, and civilian government sector all have their own separate chain that eventually comes together at NASA and a resolution would theoretically work its way back down the chain if the situation hadn't already passed by time NASA gets it. NASA would have no way of resolving the situation in any event - they're not the operators and don't have the information necessary to make any kind of decisions.

    There is no way to resolve problems between two satellites of different countries, period. In general, NASA won't even touch these kinds of problems, since it wants to be very sure it is not being used as an intelligence agency.

    Fortunately, space is really big, so there's only been one documented collision (fortunately between two objects from the same country, France, or it would have been an international incident). But dead satellites in orbits above 500 miles don't go away. They just drift in their orbit forever. Dead geos drift out of the prime belt, but sweep right back through the prime geosynchronous orbits about 28 years after they die (unless they've been 'super synched', pushed far above the geo belt) and the cycle continues about once every 28 years forever. It's a problem that just gets worse over time as satellite communications becomes more common and more important.

    The eventual solution has to be some sort of international traffic control system similar to that used for the airlines, and this is the sort of role NASA could take the lead on if they were really going to have an impact on space today.
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