Trapped By Trash, Ctd

Did you know the US has a “Space Fence” to keep debris from colliding with spacecraft and satellites? Or at least we had one

The Space Fence – which, despite its name, consisted of operational facilities on the ground, across the southern United States – [has] been shut down. In more than 50 years of operation, it had played a key role in the Space Surveillance Network, set up by the U.S. military to track man-made debris, and help keep valuable satellites and spaceships from smashing into it.  According to the Air Force Space Command, which ran the network, the shutdown was made necessary by the 2013 budget sequester and will save $14 million per year in operating expenses. But some argue that the shutdown has reduced the capability of an already imperfect surveillance system, potentially increasing the risk of a costly collision. …

To make up for the shutdown, the Air Force Space Command directed two other radars – in North Dakota and Florida – to pick up the slack. However, because these stations are each based in a single location rather than spread out across the country, they cover less of the sky than the Space Fence did. This reduced coverage has led to “a loss when it comes to detecting and characterizing events like breakups,” said [space security expert Brian] Weeden. “You can’t predict when those kind of events are going to happen. It may be that we don’t have any major collisions over the next five years, and therefore it’s not a big deal. It may be that we have a bunch of them, and it’s going to be a really big deal.”

Previous Dish on space junk here and here.