Sunday, January 19, 2014

REBR Probes the Mystery of Reentry Forces

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Space Junk


     Thousands of man-made objects currently circle the Earth, ranging in size from small flecks of paint to bus-sized satellites. At some point, all will reenter Earth’s atmosphere as their orbits decay.

The majority of them will be destroyed due to aerodynamic heating. However, some are large enough or constructed of materials strong enough to survive reentry and impact Earth’s surface.

No one has ever been injured by a reentering piece of space debris, due primarily to the fact that 70 percent of Earth’s surface is water – the majority of debris that survives reentry lands in the ocean and sinks. Those objects that have come to rest on land have done so largely in unpopulated areas.

However, there is the possibility of injury or property damage from reentering debris. In order to minimize this risk, engineers and scientists at The Aerospace Corporation have been working to better understand all the dynamic forces that are in play during reentry. Their efforts have been complicated by the fact that all data about reentry forces must be gathered remotely, from ground-based observations.

To collect more accurate reentry data, Aerospace engineers conceived, designed, and constructed the Reentry Breakup Recorder, or REBR. The basketball-sized device is launched into orbit aboard a larger spacecraft, and later intentionally deorbited, when a host spacecraft returns to Earth. The REBR gathers data as its host vehicle reenters, transmitting data to Earth for analysis. . . .

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