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News Space Fence to be shut down

  1. Aug 9, 2013 #1

    BobG

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    The latest casualty of Congress's sequestration? The space fence that plays a vital role in protecting the satellites we have in orbit.

    First, a contract to upgrade the system is delayed because of budget uncertainties. Now, the fence is being shut down entirely.

    In order for our satellites to avoid hitting debris in space, we have to know where it is.

    Right now, the best space surveillance system (of which the space fence is part of) provides warnings to operators of military satellites, but that's expanding to include civilian satellites (partly in response to the Iridium/Cosmos collision) and to foreign satellite operators, as well. (All of which require actually increasing the budget for monitoring space debris; not cutting it.)

    A second reason for expanding the customers served is that debris from collisions stays in orbit for a long time. Debris from one collision (or ASAT test) increases the risk of collision for all other satellites in similar orbits (for example, six years after the Chinese ASAT test, a piece of debris from that collision took out a Russian satellite).

    In other words, the money the government saves now by shutting down the fence will increase costs for everyone later on. And by everyone, I mean everyone that uses services provided by satellites (ATMs, pay-at-the-pump gas stations, satellite TV customers, etc).

    In essence, the space surveillance network is evolving into a space version of international air traffic control. And now developing that network is not only slowing down - it's moving the wrong direction.

    While there may be legitimate reasons to point the finger at the opposing party for the sequester, that still doesn't change the fact that Congress's job is to figure out how to fund the government - and then do it! Regardless of which party bears most of the blame, the inability to pass a budget year after year after year is plain and simple a failure of every single member of Congress.

    Which makes Boehner's comments particularly ironic:
    Obama's approval rating at the time was 45%. As a key member of the ever unpopular House, Boehner's approval rating was 18% at the time.
     
  2. jcsd
  3. Aug 9, 2013 #2

    phinds

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    Yes, that is how our government works these days.
     
  4. Aug 12, 2013 #3
    Why does the government have to provide this service? Why can't satellite operators pay private entities to track debris for them?
     
  5. Aug 12, 2013 #4

    russ_watters

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    1. The government is the primary user of this.
    2. What "private entities"? This is a task I think only the US military can do adequately.
     
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