Shooting Stars Can Shoot Down Satellites

We don’t know enough about meteoroids

8 min read
The author with the Los Alamos portable pulser.
Photo: Chip Simons

img Star Track: The author with the Los Alamos portable pulser, which beams VHF signals that satellites can detect. Photo: Chip Simons

In August 1993, the European Space Agency’s Olympus 1 experimental satellite was in trouble. The annual Perseid meteor shower, especially fierce that year, was just getting started. Usually, given sufficient warning of intense meteor activity, satellites can engage their defenses: They might,for example, protect themselves against incoming projectiles by orienting their solar panels against attacks, like shields. But Olympus 1 was at a disadvantage. A previous mishap had disabled the satellite’s ability to shift its solar arrays, leaving it defenseless. In short order, an incoming Perseid particle knocked out Olympus’s gyroscope stability, which sent the satellite spinning wildly. Attempts to regain control used up most of the craft’s fuel, leaving the US $850 million satellite with barely enough to propel itself into a graveyard orbit, where it could neither hit other satellites nor do much of anything useful. Olympus 1 will likely remain there forever, cold and dead before its time.

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Is this what’s needed to bring augmented reality to the home office?

4 min read
A standing tablet computer shows a blow out of a car that appears to be coming out of the display.

Content creators are a key target for Acer's glasses-free 3D.

Acer

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Liberty Lifter X-plane will leverage ground effect

4 min read
A rendering of a grey seaplane with twin fuselages and backwards-facing propellers
DARPA

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Take the Lead on Satellite Design Using Digital Engineering

Learn how to accelerate your satellite design process and reduce risk and costs with model-based engineering methods

1 min read
Keysight
Keysight

Win the race to design and deploy satellite technologies and systems. Learn how new digital engineering techniques can accelerate development and reduce your risk and costs. Download this free whitepaper now!

Our white paper covers:

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