Scientists Study Space Debris Destruction

Wednesday, June 19, 2019 - 12:06

Researchers of European Space Agency melted a part of an Earth-orbiting satellites to investigate better methods of protecting people from falling space debris.

According to the Space report, scientists melted a 2-inch by 4-inch (5-centimeter by 10-centimeter) instrument called a magnetotorquer dramatically inside of a plasma wind tunnel.

This facility at the German Space Agency (DLR) in Cologne, Germany, simulates the superheated gas (or plasma) that satellites experience during re-entry.

By the time the test was over, the instrument had been exposed to temperatures of several thousand degrees Fahrenheit (or Celsius), and was transformed into vapor.

The research is vital to help scientists understand how satellites fall apart during their descent to Earth; most pieces usually burn up in the atmosphere, but occasionally something survives and plunges to the surface of our planet.

While the experiment was pretty cool to look at, it didn’t pan out exactly as researchers had intended. “We have noted some similarities but also some discrepancies with the prediction models,” explained ESA clean space engineer Tiago Soares.

Modern space debris regulations mean uncontrolled reentries should have a less than 1 in 10,000 chance of injuring anyone on the ground. Although with more space junk than ever floating about in Earth’s orbit, efforts to tidy up the universe mean more metal leftovers could soon be heading our way.


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