It is estimated that more than one million objects move around the earth as space junk. To combat this “waste in space”, a new observatory is being opened in Empfingen, in the heart of Baden-Württemberg and perfect for observing space.
Space bulkheads cannot be seen from the ground with the naked eye, but it is estimated that more than a million objects orbit our planet, from derelict satellites to the smallest blast debris. They arise when, for example, a satellite can no longer avoid a piece of scrap metal and is destroyed as a result, resulting in even more and smaller debris – a dangerous chain reaction.
Therefore, space debris should be even better monitored in the future – from the Earth’s surface. In Empfingen, on the edge of the northern Black Forest, the new Kepler observatory will make it possible to better detect dangerous objects in space. Rising 15 meters into the sky, the observatory rotates on its own axis while tracking objects in the sky.
Space debris reflects laser light
The new one has 2.5 million euros German Aerospace Center Observatory cost, with which scrap can be located even more precisely in the future. To do this, the new high-tech telescope must be able to track parts moving at several thousand kilometers per hour with centimeter precision. Therefore, the telescope can fully rotate around its own axis in 60 seconds and can send short laser signals into space.
Such a signal is reflected by the debris in Earth orbit and does not return to Earth until a few milliseconds later. In this way, it is possible to calculate exactly how far away the shot particle is and its trajectory can be determined much more precisely than before.
Garbage collection planned for the space
The importance of the new laser telescope system is great, because if such objects are recognized too late, it can become really dangerous. Even a centimeter piece of space junk has the force of a hand grenade upon impact. A great danger – also for the International Space Station. On March 12, 2019, the crew had to go to the escape capsule – a piece of scrap metal had been discovered too late and the risk of collision was too great.
This is another reason why objects around the world need to be examined more closely. But observing is only one thing, in the future space will have to be tidy – experts say. In the future, end-of-life satellites should use their last strength to fly to Earth and then burn up in the atmosphere. In the future, satellites may use nets or grab arms to collect particularly hazardous waste. From now on, the new Kepler observatory in Empfingen will provide better information to avoid scrap in an emergency, with data from the heart of Baden-Württemberg.