Deepwater6, on 01 November 2011 - 09:07 AM, said:
Craig D. I was curious if you know, what would be the rule about the "right of way" if two space stations were to come too close to each other? Is there an agreement with the UN or some other international body that would regulate that to some point?
I don’t think there’re any explicit right of way rules for Earth orbit, nor much need for them, because the space around Earth is very large, and spacecraft comparatively small and few. It’s technically challenging to intentionally get 2 spacecraft to collide, much less so to avoid collisions.
The Space Liability Convention
, a treaty adopted by many states in 1972, addresses obligations to pay for damage due spacecraft, though it applies mostly to reentering spacecraft damaging life, limb, or property on the ground, and has never actually been invoked.
The main practical challenge at present is tracking defunct but still orbiting spacecraft and large (bigger than about 1 cm) pieces of debris that could catastrophically penetrate an operational spacecraft. This information is used to maneuver spacecraft like the ISS to minimize the likelihood of such an impact.
There’s not much to determining the rules of right of way for these situations – since only the operational spacecraft is capable of maneuvering, it’s the vessel that must give way. To date, radar and computer orbit tracking and threat communication by a cooperative of military and private companies has been fairly effective. However, it failed when, on 10 Feb 2009, a defunct Russian Kosmos communication satellite and a private US Iridium satellite phone communication predicted to miss one another by about 500 m collided at a speed of about 11700 m/s, creating a large debris cloud. Though much of the debris reentered the atmosphere shortly after the collision, as with most such collision, much of it will remain in orbit, and as a hazard, for many years.
Long term, it’s important to avoid increasing the amount of space junk in orbit. Satellites must be designed and operated to reliable leave orbit and reenter the atmosphere at the end of their reliable service life or park themselves in safe, “graveyard orbits”. Experiments like China’s 2007 ASAT test
not be done, or be designed better, so that target debris reliable reenters the atmosphere shortly after it’s hit.
The doomsday scenario for Earth-orbiting spacecraft safety, described in 1978, is known as the Kessler syndrome
. In this scenario, an initially small number of collisions create more debris, and more collisions, in a runaway cycle that quickly and unexpectedly makes spacecraft operation nearly impossible. Let’s all hope this remains in the realm of science fiction.
It's not that big of an issue right now, but in the future I would think countries would all want the path with the least amount of space junk and other space stations to maneuver around.
A problem with space junk is that much of it is in unusual orbits that intersect many others, so there’s not really “safe” and “unsafe” orbitals, the general exception being that high orbits are generally safer than low.
I suspect if China's economic growth continues they will be a user of more than one orbit.
Every satellite essentially has its own orbit, and we are far launching enough satellites to worry yet about overcrowding.
They also seem have the ability and resources to have the largest space program (in roughly 30yrs). America should be careful China's space program may accelerate faster than ours did in the 60's. China may end up passing the USA like frieght train passing a HOBO.
Though, not being the “space race” that the US and Russian (then USSR) programs were in the '60s, appears to be advancing in a slow, careful manner, it has ambitious goals, and is backed by a very wealthy government. Just as China has eclipsed nations like the US in manufacturing, I expect it will the US, Russia, and the European nations in spaceflight in the next decade.
I believe the appropriate response is I, for one, welcome our new Chinese overlords
However, I think it’s important to note that, while the Chinese space program is proceeding well, it’s very conventional, in many ways simply a slightly modernized remake of the Soviet program of 50 years ago. Via private companies, countries like the UK continue to pursue profoundly new spaceflight technology. My favorite, one that continues to become accepted as legitimate, and secure money for continued development, is the Skylon SSTO spacecraft
concept, which recently tested (successfully, we’re left to gather) of a prototype of a key part of its motors, the intake/cooling system designed to cool incoming air with evaporated liquid hydrogen to generate liquid oxygen. (see http://www.space.com...ngine-test.html
Deepwater6, on 14 November 2011 - 07:52 AM, said:
Well once again CraigD it looks like you were correct, a safe launch of two Russians and one American into space. In addition to their safe trip I'm glad to see ISS get resupplied and hope the other 3 have a safe trip home.
I love successfully predicting good things
Let’s hope my optimism for the Skylon is as well vindicated.
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