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space junk
Screencap from animated GIF produced by European Space Agency to illustrate growing problem of space junk in Earth's atmosphere. (Image: ESA)

The Quest to Conquer Earth’s Space Junk Problem

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The Quest to Conquer Earth’s Space Junk Problem

Sept. 14, 2018
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Zombie satellites, rocket shards and collision debris are creating major traffic risks in orbits around the planet. Researchers are working to reduce the threats posed by more than 20,000 objects in space.

The work of astrodynamicist Aaron Rosengren, an assistant professor in the Department of Aerospace and Mechanical Engineering, is featured extensively in a Nature article, published Sep. 5, 2018, describing threats posed by 20,000 objects orbiting Earth.

Rosengren’s idea is to use a web of gravitational phenomena known as “resonances” to remove dead satellites and other junk from orbit.

Other researchers have explored the concept before, but Rosengren is trying to push it into the mainstream. “It’s one of the newer things in space debris,” he says.

We call it passive disposal through resonances and instabilities. Yeah, we need a new name.”