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Prototype system to better track space junk

 

Narrator:       This is Science Today. In the summer of 2012, researchers at the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory will launch a couple of small satellites that are prototypes of a system they've developed and patented to keep better track of space debris. Space scientist John Henderson, who is working on the project, says they're assembling and testing the satellites.

Henderson:    We are doing the software, we're using the modeling and simulation tools we've developed to simulate their performance to make sure that if there's any design questions, they will do what we want them to do when they are in orbit. We're also working with JSpOC, the Joint Space Operations Center, to keep track of everything and so we're working with them to transfer some of the software tools that we had developed and used in our research environment into their operational environment.

Narrator:       The current system generates frequent warnings if debris comes within a half mile of a satellite, which is unlikely to cause a collision. The lab's prototype system would be significantly more precise and spare satellite operators the risk of expending finite onboard fuel for a false alarm. For Science Today, I'm Larissa Branin.