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New space surveillance system in Cyprus November 11, 2006

Posted by grhomeboy in Science.

Successful trial for BNSC-funded space surveillance project

Better ways of tracking satellites and other space objects could come into force following the completion of a successful trial of a new space surveillance system in Cyprus.

Eastbourne-based company Space Insight has been awarded a contract by the British National Space Centre (BNSC) to undertake this work, and has just returned from testing the system at a Ministry of Defence base on the island which has excellent night-time sky conditions.

Space Insight is exploring how a sensor called Starbrook could be used to scan vast areas of sky every few hours, providing a map of the satellites and space objects that are detected. The news comes as traditional methods of tracking space objects on an individual basis are becoming increasing unworkable because of the increasing number of satellites and other objects orbiting in space.

David Williams, Director General of BNSC, said: “The government has an obligation to monitor UK-licensed objects in space, tracking their journey and ensuring that they are properly disposed of at the end of their lifetime.  The Starbrook sensor could make this process a whole lot easier and is yet another example of a UK company,  supported by BNSC, forging ahead with new innovations in space technology.”

And Dr James Dick, Director of Space Insight, added: “Starbrook takes a fresh approach to space surveillance and we are pleased that BNSC is supporting this innovation which we hope will provide further input into developing European capability on this important issue.” The company has also been awarded a contract to update the UK’s current capabilities for predicting when space debris might re-enter the Earth’s atmosphere and potentially hit the ground. Space debris, such as old satellites and rocket bodies, re-enter the atmosphere every few days.  This debris often burns up harmlessly, creating a dramatic man-made shooting star.

However, some larger objects have the potential to survive this re-entry and hit the Earth’s surface, causing damage to people and buildings. Although there have been no serious reported incidents of this occurring, more satellites are being launched than ever before and the need to safeguard the Earth from space debris is increasing in urgency.

Related Links >
British National Space Centre > http://www.bnsc.gov.uk

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