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The End of Space Access
by Staff Writers
Bethesda, MD (SPX) Apr 21, 2021

ESA file illustration

Many recent articles have expressed concern about the growing amount of junk floating around Earth in low orbits. Ultimately, the mass and distribution of junk and active satellites will exceed the capacity of space to safely contain the debris generated by the addition of more than an estimated 50,000 new satellites planned for deployment in the next few years. If and when this limit is reached our ability to travel in space may be greatly diminished.

When will this happen? No one knows the answer, but It could be soon. Just last week one of SpaceX's satellites came within 60 meters of a OneWeb satellite. As more and more satellites are launched, the frequency of these events will dramatically increase. After that, low-Earth orbits will begin to experience collisions among the many old and new satellite constellations.

The next step will be a chain reaction that results in freshly created debris being exponentially multiplied until major segments of near-Earth space are gridlocked with junk of all sizes. Such an event could take only days or weeks to entirely end access to space.

Can remedial action wait until this gridlocking event starts? Spacefaring nations have two options: continue business as usual that could result in the total loss of space activities for decades, if not longer; or, initiate space sustainability programs that lead to control of the space-based debris population. Such a program would offer three essential operations:

+ Precisely tracks and projects the trajectories of all large resident space objects (RSO) such that active satellites can avoid close conjunctions.

+ Controls the population of small-but-dangerous debris objects through active removal operations.

+ Manages space traffic of active satellites to maintain safe flight paths.

The "do nothing" option could result in the complete loss of the half-trillion-dollar annual space commerce revenue. The reopening of space would cost at least several hundred billion dollars and likely take decades to achieve. The second option would assure continued safe commerce but require a very complex program involving several new space systems and a multi-billion-dollar annual budget.

Unfortunately, the world economy cannot afford to do nothing. The real choice is to either pay for space sustainability now or pay much more later.

Related Links
Rocket Science News at Space-Travel.Com

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NASA adds Vulcan Centaur to launch services program catalog
Centennial CO (SPX) Apr 16, 2021
NASA's Launch Services Program (LSP) has added United Launch Alliance's next generation rocket, the Vulcan Centaur, to the NASA Launch Services II (NLS) indefinite delivery/indefinite quantity contract in accordance with the on-ramp provision of NLS II. "ULA is honored that NASA LSP has added our Vulcan Centaur rocket to the catalog of launch vehicles available to support future space exploration missions," said Tory Bruno, ULA's president and CEO. "Vulcan Centaur, a single core vehicle, wil ... read more

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