February 25, 2020

22.05.11: Meteoroids: Sandblasting Satellites?

0.84mm diameter strike on the window of Shuttle Columbia seen after STS-35. (Credit: NASA).

Next time you use your mobile or GPS to bounce signals off of a satellite, thank Stanford professor Ingrid Close… she and other researchers like her think about meteoroid strikes and their potentially crippling effects on spacecraft, so hopefully you don’t have to. This lazy Sunday morn, I’d like to point your browser towards an outstanding talk by professor Close and the hazards posed by micrometeorite strikes;

There is also some interesting discussion therein on past strikes and effects observed during the annual Perseid and Leonids showers, as well as some of the first talk we’ve heard discussing the up and coming 2011 Draconid outburst later this year. Understanding the hazards posed by the daily influx of cosmogenous debris is not only crucial to the operability of commercial satellites in low Earth orbit, but will be essential data for any long duration manned visit to the Moon or Mars. To this end, researchers at Stanford hope to launch MEDUSSA, or the Meteoroid, Energetics and Debris Understanding for Space Situational Awareness mission. This cubesat would employ a 1 meter x 1 meter detector (hey, more possible satellite flaring ops!) equipped with Plasma & RF sensors to properly characterize the local meteoroid environment. And if that wasn’t enough, some discussion is given in the video for evidence for the existence of interstellar meteoroids, a boost for the panspermia theory of organic molecules being introduced to Earth from early meteorite impacts. All good stuff… perhaps death and cosmic destruction isn’t your standard Sunday morning fare, but do give the above SETI Talks video a watch; these are the researchers keeping vigil and our space borne technology aloft!

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