Science. – ESA satellite avoids impact of space debris “in extreme cases” – Publimetro México

Science.  – ESA satellite avoids impact of space debris “in extreme cases” – Publimetro México

Madrid, 15 (European press)

Swarm is the European Space Agency (ESA) mission to unravel the mysteries of the Earth’s magnetic field. It is made up of three satellites, A, B and C, known as Alpha, Bravo and Charlie.

A small piece of debris was detected speeding toward Alpha at 1400 UTC on June 30. A potential collision was predicted only eight hours later, shortly after midnight. The collision risks were high enough that the Alpha’s position was shifted to avoid it.

Taking the evasive action, known as a “collision avoidance maneuver,” requires a great deal of planning. You must verify that you are not moving the satellite into a new orbit that puts it at risk of further collisions, and you must calculate how to return to its original orbit using the least amount of fuel and losing as little scientific data as possible.

The European Space Agency’s Office of Space Debris analyzes data from the US space monitoring network and issues a warning of a possible collision of the ESA’s flight control and flight dynamics teams, usually more than 24 hours before the piece of debris approaches the satellite. In this case, only eight hours’ notice was received, the European Space Agency reports.

Also, the alert meant Team Swarm was now suddenly racing against two hours. Another maneuver was planned just a few hours after the potential collision and had to be called off to give Alpha enough time to get out of the wreckage’s path. This maneuver was also very time sensitive and had to be completely re-planned, recalculated and executed in one day.

Specifically, Alpha and Charlie have been raising the orbit, as the violent solar activity associated with the gradual increase in the solar cycle distorts Earth’s atmosphere and threatens to pull the mission out of orbit. Both satellites needed to perform 25 maneuvers over 10 weeks to reach their new, higher orbits. One of the Alpha maneuvers was scheduled a few hours after the potential collision.

Alpha was eventually brought to safety after hitting the piece of wreckage and completed its ascent to safer orbits alongside Charlie.

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