Military Space Programs: Issues Concerning DOD’s SBIRS and STSS Programs

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Mysterious Russian satellite worries experts

They operate at maximum throughput, fault tolerance, and power levels. Air Force and NASA space experts anticipate that future missions will require wider variations of these factors. Electronic equipment is affected by ionizing radiation exposure by caus- ing a build-up of static charge over time, which might release and cause damage or even failure to the equipment. Avionics can experience a range of problems, from complete burnout to the occasional single-event upset, bit errors, and data drops that can corrupt stored data and affect the reliability of the resulting transmissions.

There are several ways that electronic devices can be radiation hardened. Radiation effects can be reduced by using error-correction circuitry and triple redundancy, where two good results can outvote a corrupted one. Radiation-hardened space electronics enter the multi-core era. Demand for rad-hard electronic parts is relatively low, which can drive up their costs even more. Possible solutions include redundant subsystems, selective shielding, and selective COTS electronics for increased reliability.

The avionics and electronics used in the NASA Orion spacecraft are rugge- dized and radiation hardened to endure extreme radiation and temperatures. Image Credit: NASA Redundant multicore processors are being developed by computer engineers at the Curtiss-Wright Corporation to not only block radiation-induced single-event effects but also recover quickly without disruption when upsets occur.

Curtiss- Wright is delivering rugged, space-qualified data acquisition and network technolo- gies to both the Orion spacecraft and the SLS launch vehicle.


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These data-acquisition systems are hardened against the effects of space radiation. Yet, it sometimes is the only solution for elec- tronic components that are crucial for protecting human lives or ensuring the success of important orbital and deep-space missions. Advancements in electronic components, specifically the decreased size of modern chips, help lessen their exposure to total-dose radiation. Applications for the HPSC processor will include military surveillance and weapons systems, human-rated spacecraft, habitats and vehicles, and robotic science and exploration platforms.

System applications range from small satellites to large and complex civilian and military equipment and missions. NASA is also looking to Boeing to develop technologies that can manage its own electricity demands to preserve power resources, especially on deep-space missions far from Earth. The HPSC program concludes in late or early , after which the technology will be ready for deployment. The problem, as always, is funding. Plasma behaves like an extremely hot gas—its atoms split up into electrons and ions capable of moving independently of each other.

These electri- cally charged particles enable it to conduct electricity and be affected by magnetic fields. Electrons can affect any spacecraft surface, while ions can only impact surfaces on the leading edge. This process can lead to a negative charge buildup, which increases the possibility of high-voltage solar arrays disruption. The negative charge can also affect the conductive coatings intended to bleed off static charge on a spacecraft. A cooling system is required to keep temperatures from rising above the maximum operating temperature.

Plasma, plasma, everywhere. Paint on the spacecraft surface with suitable coating material as well as insulation blankets can also be used. These techniques are all part of a passive thermal control system. Satellites in any orbit require a surface coating to manage the thermal loads in that orbit. Thermal radiators manage internal heat generated by electronics. Partially active or passive components that are low cost and reliable can be used to achieve reasonable temperature control. Once it was established that humans could survive spaceflight and explore and work in space, attention shifted to problems that could result from long-term exposure.

In addition to environmental issues, we know that orbital debris and asteroid fragments in outer space can destroy spacecraft while creating more debris. Removing this orbital debris and making future spacecraft safe from such collisions remain a challenge. Finally, spacecraft materials need to be designed to withstand extreme temperature changes and different types of high radiation. The hazards of orbital spaceflight provide trials that must be met with future scientific and technological achievements. The pace of embedded computing technology development is placing pressure on satellite and spacecraft designers, who must deliver reliable systems at low costs.

Hugh G. There are thousands of objects orbiting Earth, and within minutes under a dark sky, both satellites and space debris can be seen with the naked eye. You can also use a sky tracker app on your cellphone held up to the night sky to see spacecraft and space debris moving across the sky. Space debris includes operating manmade spacecraft and satellites, space junk defunct spacecraft or individual objects caused by a collision or explo- sion , as well as natural objects like meteoroids that orbit about the Sun.

Satellites and rockets, launched into space by the hundreds for decades, are left as space garbage when they become inoperative. Space junk is made up of dead satellites as well as discarded upper-stage rockets, once used to boost satellites into orbit, and even articles that have been set loose by astronauts by mistake. Even a small chunk of debris is travelling fast enough to damage or even destroy a spacecraft or satellite that it happens to be in its path. Risks of impending collisions between satel- lites or spacecraft have been reported but not to the extent often depicted in popu- lar culture, such as in the film Gravity.

Still, we can predict how space debris could create just as much havoc as intentional high-speed weapons. Spacecraft even those that are inoperative are capable of remaining in Earth orbit for a long time until atmospheric drag eventually pulls the spacecraft back to Earth, a process that could take years or even decades. Up until then, the object remains a piece of space junk unless there is an onboard capability to conduct a deorbit burn.


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This chapter explores the challenges of how to handle space debris to make orbiting in space safe. This requires a huge amount of energy. Who you gonna call? Junk busters!. New Scientist, , 46— If there are multiple bodies in a mile orbit above the Earth, they should be stable and remain a safe distance from other objects. However, objects that are launched and pass through other orbits to achieve a higher orbit can potentially cross paths and come close to colliding with objects along the way. There is no Federal Aviation Administration FAA of space activities, although there are some monitoring activities for the International Space Station and other high-risk spacecraft.

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These are described later in this chapter. Collision avoidance is a possibility for some spacecraft, but not all craft are equipped to move on demand to avoid another object traveling thousands of miles per hour. The probability of collision increases as the number of spacecraft in orbit and traveling through orbits increases. The launching of small spacecraft has greatly increased over the past several years and shows no sign of diminishing.

Since , an average of spacecraft has been launched per year. In all, spacecraft satellites, human spaceships, and planetary probes had been launched by late Private industry and other Fig. Number of spacecraft launched — Image Credit: Claude Lafleur, cooptel. What is an orbit? Even small pieces of debris, because of their high speeds, can collide with other objects and cause explosions.

Space Tracking and Surveillance System (STSS)

The hundreds or thousands of particles resulting from the collision will be traveling at the same speed as any object in that orbit. The velocity is approximately 4. As the debris size and mass increases, so does the kinetic energy. Starting with one explosion, hundreds or thousands of fragments are generated.

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Each indi- vidual piece of debris is capable of colliding with other spacecraft, creating hun- dreds or thousands more pieces orbiting at high speeds in the path of other objects. Soon, the entire LEO would be littered, preventing any launched satellite to pass through to higher altitudes unscathed. Spacecraft Encyclopedia, c Space debris basics. One of the biggest concerns by scientists is that the situation will be out of control unless a concerted effort is made by countries with orbiting spacecraft to address the issue.

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