There’s a lot of debris floating around in space, and researchers at the Lawrence Livermore National Lab are using supercomputers, optical sensors and other technology to track even small objects that could damage important satellites.
John Henderson, a space scientist at LLNL, explains:
“Everybody uses GPS to get from here to there. We have satellite television, we have weather reports, farmers use satellite data for monitoring crops. If you have a piece of satellite debris whacking into a satellite, in the worst case you now lose that capability. In February of 2009, that actually happened where there was an Iridium communications satellite that collided with a dead Russian Kosmos satellite and so that basically took out a $100 million dollar satellite.
There’s somewhere between 100,000 to 200,000 pieces of debris that we would like to be tracking. And so the supercomputing capabilities that we have here at Livermore are one way to keep track of that.”