NASA Retires Pioneering Tracking And Data Relay Satellite
After a rocky start and then a stellar 26-year performance, NASA’s Tracking and Data Relay Satellite – 1 (TDRS-1) is scheduled for decommissioning on October 28.
Communications equipment that links TDRS-1 to the ground has failed and without this capability it can no longer relay science data and spacecraft telemetry to ground stations located at the White Sands Complex in Las Cruces, N.M., and on Guam.
Insecurity in Space
Space once was ours. Then came the space junk, collisions, and dangerous interlopers.
The recent expedition of space shuttle Atlantis on a major Hubble repair mission illustrated the dangers also.
Traveling up to the Hubble telescope’s altitude required transit through a major debris field. As Palowitch described it, the worst debris in LEO is right in the Hubble’s band. The known debris put Atlantis “at a one-in-200 chance of being totally destroyed by impact in flight,” he said. When it landed, Atlantis was pockmarked with more debris hits than any other shuttle in history.
Several factors contributed to the pummeling. First was the transit through debris fields. Then, once in position, the complex repairs required Atlantis to spend more time in the junk-strewn orbit.
More space blogging below!
Speaking of space debris: J002E3
J002E3 is the designation given to a supposed asteroid discovered by amateur astronomer Bill Yeung on September 3, 2002. Further examination revealed the object was not a rock asteroid but instead the S-IVB third stage of the Apollo 12 Saturn V rocket.
The object left Earth orbit in 2003 but will return in 2032. Check out this cool animation of the 2002-2003 encounter. Here is a lengthy write-up of the S-IVB stage.
The World’s Largest Stick of Dynamite
While NASA personnel have done an admirable job in handling the SRB’s up to this point, it’s sobering to know that just one mistake could cost a lot of lives and pull the plug on the nation’s manned space program. The Ares 5-segment SRB will be the world’s largest stick of dynamite, and that risk should never be lost on anybody who works in the space business.
Meanwhile, the Ares I-X test vehicle has rolled out and is in place on Pad 39B:
That, my friends, is the future of the US manned space program.
I wish it were something we could be proud of and excited for.