Space Debris: How do we safeguard our future?

Iridium-Cosmos Debris cloud as it would be on July 10
Iridium-Cosmos Debris cloud as it would be on July 10

Satellite Collision simulation

 

The first accidental hypervelocity collision of two intact spacecrafts occurred on 10 February 2009 when Iridium 33, a US Operational communication satellite and Cosmos 2251, a Russian decommissioned communications satellite collided at 1656 GMT as they passed over northern Siberia at an altitude of 790 km leaving two distinct debris clouds in much of the Low Earth Orbit which are now dispersing and pose danger of future collisions.

The present incidence has generated a lot of concern in the space community (We were at the United Nations Committee for Peaceful Uses of Outer Space recently) especially as the Iridium constellation is in a region of high spatial density and the Iridium constellation has 70 satellites in the operational altitude regime – at even the current situation, there are approximately 3,300 additional catalogued objects that whiz through the Iridium constellation’s altitude each day.

The effects of such debris clouds after collision would pose a significant risk to the access to space both in the short-term and long-term. Although tracking results from the Iridium Cosmos incident show that the debris created is short lived (and would re-enter the Earth’s atmosphere within the next 5-10 years depending on solar activity), incidents such as this could potentially lead to an “ablation cascade” where future collisions would create further and more energetic space debris objects that may be extremely dangerous for human space flights. The figure above depicts the predicted evolution of the Iridium and Cosmos debris planes by July 10 (six months after the collision)! 

Photo Credit with thanks: NASA, Orbital Debris Program Office

Design, Theory and Activism

In a few steps – this is what I am working on with a bit of generalizing. More on current projects perhaps needs to be thrown light on here, but all in good time 🙂

1) Define intended outcomes
2) Integrate subject matter experts
3) Partner with like minded organizations
4) Build sustainable community
5) Embrace ‘wicked problems’
6) Maintain journalistic integrity
7) Measure transference of knowledge
8) Make it fun!

Founder named Woman Engineer of the Year 2009

Bijal Thakore was announced the winner of the Women’s Engineering Society (WES) prize for her service in the engineering sector at a recent prestigious award ceremony.

Bijal, founder of Big On Good Solutions, was overjoyed when she was awarded the prize at the Young Woman Engineer of the Year 2008 event, organised by the Institution of Engineering and Technology (IET).

She said: “Young people – both men and women alike – are contributing to advancing engineering, science and technology in our society in more ways than ever before and are moving engineering away from the professional stereotypes.

“Being recognised for this is a great honour. I love waking up every day to solve challenges that combine solutions in engineering, technology as well as social behaviour and hence, being able to break the traditional ways in which different sectors operate.”

After a number of years of consulting, Bijal’s most recent venture is Big On Good Solutions, focused on delivering bespoke engineering and design services harnessing the unique abilities of modular, swarm driven robotics, algorithms and looking at cutting edge cluster behaviours. Big On Good helps a number of clients in a variety of fields to drive efficient operations and timely results without the associated back-office burden.