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Lockheed Martin Joins Australian Firm to Track Space Junk

Thu, 28 Aug 2014 18:17:56 +0000

Most orbital debris is in low Earth orbit, where the space station flies. NASA(NEW YORK) -- A proposed new facility in Western Australia will provide a clearer picture of just how much space junk is orbiting earth.

The facility, which is a partnership between Lockheed Marin and Australia's Electro Optic Systems, will use lasers and optical systems, like those found in telescopes, to detect and learn more about man-made space junk. This includes how fast the debris is moving, what direction its spinning and what it's made of.

The space junk facility won't act as a space janitor -- but will instead make sure government and commercial organizations are aware of the location of junk so they can protect their investments in space, according to Rick Ambrose, executive vice president, Lockheed Martin Space Systems.

Space junk, or as NASA calls it, "orbital debris," can range from items as small as flecks of paint released by thermal stress to as large as pieces from satellite explosions and collisions, according to NASA's Orbital Debris Programs Office.

More than 21,000 pieces of space junk larger than 10 centimeters are known to exist, according to figures released by NASA in 2012. There are an estimated half-million pieces of debris that range in size between one and 10 centimeters, while the number of particles smaller than the size of a fingernail is estimated to be more than 100 million.

Copyright 2014 ABC News Radio

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