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National lab helps track space debris

 

Narrator:       This is Science Today. Researchers at the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory are using their supercomputers and visualization tools to help government agencies monitor defunct satellites and other space debris to prevent collisions with active satellites orbiting Earth. Currently, the U.S. Air Force's Joint Space Operations Center is tracking 20,000 known objects.

Henderson:    There's somewhere between 100,000 and 200,000 pieces of debris that we would like to be tracking.

Narrator:       John Henderson is the associate program leader of the Lab's Space Systems Enabling Technologies and Global Security.

Henderson:    You have 20,000 known objects and you're trying to figure out whether they're going to collide with each other, so you have basically have 20,000 times 20,000 potential collisions, so that's 400 million potential collisions to keep track of and everything is moving, so every little bit it changes in time. And so the supercomputing capabilities that we have here at Livermore are one way to keep track of that. We take all the information we get and share it with other satellite owners to basically help everybody out.

Narrator:       For Science Today, I'm Larissa Branin.