. 24/7 Space News .
Swarm dodges collision during climb to escape Sun's wrath
by Staff Writers
Paris (ESA) Jul 15, 2022

The picture shows Sentinel-1A's solar array before and after the impact of a millimetre-size particle on the second panel. The damaged area has a diameter of about 40 cm, which is consistent on this structure with the impact of a fragment of less than 5 millimetres in size.

The pressure is on at ESA's mission control. An ESA satellite dodges out of the way of a mystery piece of space junk spotted just hours before a potential collision.

Now a crucial step in the spacecraft's ongoing journey to safer skies has to be quickly rescheduled, as violent solar activity related to the ramping up of the solar cycle warps Earth's atmosphere and threatens to drag it down out of orbit...

A swarm? Of bugs?
Not quite - Swarm is ESA's mission to unravel the mysteries of Earth's magnetic field. It's made up of three satellites, A, B and C - affectionately known as Alpha, Bravo and Charlie.

A small piece of human-made rubbish circling our planet - known as space debris - was detected hurtling towards Alpha at 16:00 CEST, on 30 June. A potential collision was predicted just eight hours later, shortly after midnight. The risk of impact was high enough that Alpha needed to get out of the way - fast.

There's rubbish in space?
A lot of it. Old satellites, rocket parts and small pieces of debris left over from previous collisions and messy breakups. Each little piece can cause serious damage to a satellite, larger ones can destroy a satellite and create large amount of new debris.

Was this the first time this has happened?
That day? Maybe. Ever? No way. Each one of our satellites has to perform on average two evasive manoeuvres every year - and that's not including all the alerts we get that don't end up needing evasive action.

Then what's the big deal?
Carrying out evasive action - known as a 'collision avoidance manoeuvre' - requires a lot of planning. You have to check that you're not moving the satellite into a new orbit that puts it at risk of other collisions and you have to calculate how to get back to your original orbit using as little fuel and losing as little science data as possible.

ESA's Space Debris Office analyses data from the US Space Surveillance Network and raises the warning of a potential collision to ESA's Flight Control and Flight Dynamics teams, usually more than 24 hours before the piece of debris comes closest to the satellite.

In this case, we only got eight hours' notice.

And worse, the alert meant that the Swarm team was now suddenly racing against two clocks. Another manoeuvre was planned for just a few hours after the potential collision and had to be cancelled to give Alpha enough time to duck out of the way of the debris. That manoeuvre was also very time sensitive and had to be entirely replanned, recalculated and carried out within a day.

What was the other manoeuvre?
Alpha and Charlie were climbing to escape the wrath of the Sun. Both satellites needed to carry out 25 manoeuvres over a period of 10 weeks to reach their new higher orbits. One of Alpha's manoeuvres was planned for just a few hours after the possible collision.

Wait, the Sun is killing satellites?
Our Sun is entering a very active part of its 'solar cycle' right now. This activity is increasing the density of Earth's upper atmosphere. Satellites are running through 'thicker' air, slowing them down and requiring them to use up more limited onboard fuel to stay in orbit. Alpha and Charlie were moving up into a less dense part of the atmosphere where they can stay in orbit and collect science data hopefully for many more years and mission extensions!

What would have happened without this manoeuvre?
Alpha would have drifted towards Charlie and the orbits of the two satellites would have soon crossed. This would have left the overall Swarm mission 'cross-eyed', limiting its ability to do science until another set of manoeuvres realigned Alpha and Charlie.

Is Swarm OK now?
The Swarm team got to work with a reaction time to rival an Olympic sprinter. Working together with the Flight Dynamics team at ESA's mission control, they planned and carried out the evasive action in just four hours, and then replanned and carried out the other manoeuvre within 24 hours.

Alpha is now safe from a collision with that piece of debris and has completed its climb to safer skies alongside Charlie. But there is lots of debris out there, and this shows with how little warning it can threaten a satellite.

How are your teams keeping up with all these collision alerts?
With new tech, more sustainable behaviour and by taking our space debris responsibility very seriously. We're building new technology to track more debris, developing new computational tools that will help us plan and carry out the rapidly increasing number of evasive manoeuvres, and working on guidelines that limit the amount of new rubbish we and other satellite operators add to the problem. We're even working on ways to grab larger pieces of debris and remove them from orbit using a 'space claw'.

Related Links
Swarm at ESA
Space Safety at ESA
Space Technology News - Applications and Research

Thanks for being there;
We need your help. The SpaceDaily news network continues to grow but revenues have never been harder to maintain.

With the rise of Ad Blockers, and Facebook - our traditional revenue sources via quality network advertising continues to decline. And unlike so many other news sites, we don't have a paywall - with those annoying usernames and passwords.

Our news coverage takes time and effort to publish 365 days a year.

If you find our news sites informative and useful then please consider becoming a regular supporter or for now make a one off contribution.
SpaceDaily Monthly Supporter
$5+ Billed Monthly

paypal only
SpaceDaily Contributor
$5 Billed Once

credit card or paypal

Space rocket junk could have deadly consequences unless governments act
Vancouver, Canada (SPX) Jul 13, 2022
The re-entry of abandoned stages of rockets left in orbit from space launches have a six to 10 per cent chance of severely injuring or killing a human being in the next decade, according to a new UBC study. Researchers say governments need to take collective action and mandate that rocket stages are guided safely back to Earth after their use, which could increase the cost of a launch, but potentially save lives. "Is it permissible to regard the loss of human life as just a cost of doing bus ... read more

Comment using your Disqus, Facebook, Google or Twitter login.

Share this article via these popular social media networks
del.icio.usdel.icio.us DiggDigg RedditReddit GoogleGoogle

US renews space flights with Russia in rare cooperation

NASA Highlights Climate Research on Cargo Launch, Sets Coverage

Short space trips for paying passengers on the way

Terran Orbital completes CAPSTONE's First TCM Burn

Rocket Lab's MAX Flight Software surpasses 50th mission milestone

Vega-C completes inaugural flight

Third Test Flight for DARPA's HAWC Yields New Performance Data

NASA, GE complete historic hybrid-electric propulsion tests

Ingenuity Postpones Flights Until August

Moving Right Along - Sol 3531

Machine learning 'phones home' for famous Martian rock

Source of ancient Martian rocks found using Perth supercomputer

China prepares to launch Wentian lab module

Shenzhou-14 Taikonauts conduct in-orbit science experiments, prepare for space walks

Wheels on China's Zhurong rover keep stable with novel material

Construction of China's first commercial spacecraft launch site starts in Hainan

Ukrainian Space Startups

NASA and Houston's Ion Partner to Create Opportunities for Startup Community

Tech firms unveil plan for 'space-based' 5G network

ESA astronaut selection in the final stages

Swarm dodges collision during climb to escape Sun's wrath

NASA seeks public's designs to throw shade in space

Laser Terminal Bound for ISS arrives at Goddard for testing

A programming language for hardware accelerators

To search for alien life, astronomers will look for clues in the atmospheres of distant planets

Webb begins hunt for the first stars and habitable worlds

Undead planets: the unusual conditions of the first exoplanet detection

The life puzzle: the location of land on a planet can affect its habitability

You can help scientists study the atmosphere on Jupiter

SwRI scientists identify a possible source for Charon's red cap

NASA's Europa Clipper Mission Completes Main Body of the Spacecraft

Gemini North Telescope Helps Explain Why Uranus and Neptune Are Different Colors

The content herein, unless otherwise known to be public domain, are Copyright 1995-2024 - Space Media Network. All websites are published in Australia and are solely subject to Australian law and governed by Fair Use principals for news reporting and research purposes. AFP, UPI and IANS news wire stories are copyright Agence France-Presse, United Press International and Indo-Asia News Service. ESA news reports are copyright European Space Agency. All NASA sourced material is public domain. Additional copyrights may apply in whole or part to other bona fide parties. All articles labeled "by Staff Writers" include reports supplied to Space Media Network by industry news wires, PR agencies, corporate press officers and the like. Such articles are individually curated and edited by Space Media Network staff on the basis of the report's information value to our industry and professional readership. Advertising does not imply endorsement, agreement or approval of any opinions, statements or information provided by Space Media Network on any Web page published or hosted by Space Media Network. General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) Statement Our advertisers use various cookies and the like to deliver the best ad banner available at one time. All network advertising suppliers have GDPR policies (Legitimate Interest) that conform with EU regulations for data collection. By using our websites you consent to cookie based advertising. If you do not agree with this then you must stop using the websites from May 25, 2018. Privacy Statement. Additional information can be found here at About Us.