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NASA’s Building a Fence for Space

A new project aimed at keeping away all that nasty space debris


Some of you may have read an earlier post of mine talking about the problems that NASA and other space agencies are having because of the massive amounts of debris circling the planet.  Well, it looks like they’ve got a solution together and may be able to at least track it, if not get rid of it altogether.  It’s called a “Space Fence” and it’s designed to monitor tens-of-thousands of pieces of debris and thus warn satellites and space stations when they might be in trouble.

The proposed project would be put together in Kwajalein Atoll and would have the capability to track more than 150,000 individual pieces of debris - even small pieces - as they make their way through low-Earth orbit.  This would potentially prevent the possibility of satellites and space stations getting smashed by this fast moving and very threatening obstacle.

It’s not a cheap project though.  Even with competing contracts, the estimated cost looks to be $2 billion minimum with some estimates ranging as high as $4 billion.  And this is just to set the thing up.  Operation costs over the years would add even more to that number.  But the savings in launch costs and replacing satellites could make up for that in no time, especially considering that more debris ends up in orbit every year.

The current system being used is run by the U.S. Air Force and was built way back in 1961, so we’re about due for an upgrade.  The new version is estimated to be at least 10 times more efficient than the old one, using the latest technology.  It will, however, take until around 2020 before it’s up and running, so space-bound craft will have to watch their step until then.  Still, it’s a good start until scientists can figure out a way to get that rubble out of our orbit for good.  And, of course, it is likely to end in even more technologies being developed that may help in other areas of space exploration. 

Even as we mess things up, we find ways to remedy the problems we cause.  Nothing will keep us from getting to the stars and I personally am glad I live in the era I do, able to watch it all taking place before my eyes.