Friday, May 03, 2013

Close Call for NASA's Fermi Gamm-ray Space Telescope!!

NASA's $690 million Fermi Space Telescope was nearly lost last year (4/3/2012) when a defunct one
and a half ton Soviet era reconnaissance satellite (cosmos 1805) missed the space telescope by only 700 feet. 

A much worse scenario was avoided when engineers instructed Fermi to perform a maneuver that took the satellite barely out of harms way.  

To get an idea of just how close this was to total destruction of the Fermi Telescope, at the speeds that both  objects were travelling, 700 feet equates to a difference of 30 milliseconds between one spacecraft entering and leaving the collision point, before the next craft enters the very same space.  Due to their size, this meant that a sizable portion of each craft would still be in the collision zone. 

As luck would have it, Fermi had onboard thrusters that were specifically designed to move the satellite out of  way of potential threats.   A one second burn of all thrusters changed Fermi's attitude enough that when April 3 2012 arrived, it missed the defunct satellite by 6 miles.  

This occurrence  only goes to heighten awareness of the growing threat to manned and unmanned spacecraft in orbit of colliding with a piece of space junk.  NASA now tracks 17,000 object larger than 4 inches across with only 7% being active satellites.  

Thanks to Xnewsman for the heads up!

1 comment:

kallamis said...

I hit this on the rundown myself. I also included a link there to a page I found after it was done, that tells about a hole in the winged solar array panel that they don't know when it happened. So it could have been a micrometeroid, or even a piece of space debris we left up there.