Chances are that you’ve used a GPS device, watched a live television broadcast of a major event on the other side of the world, laughed or cried at the status update of a social media friend, or checked the weather forecast — events all made possible by the almost indispensable satellites that impact many lives across the world.
Yet those satellites are threatened by the now thousands of pieces of satellites and spacecraft that have broken apart in orbit – many times accidentally, some times not – and are speeding through space at several hundred kilometres per second.
This threat gets potentially worse with each new satellite or rocket launch.
If you’ve ever watched TV shows such as ‘Spooks’ or ‘24′, you’ll have seen the government agencies calling up real-time satellite imagery to track hostile forces.
It might make for good TV, but it’s pretty far-fetched. While some spy satellites are supposed to have the capability to read the largest headline print of a newspaper someone is holding, satellites aren’t generally in geo-stationary orbits, so unless they’ve been pre-positioned, the chances of a satellite being in the right place at the right time are fairly small. Read more.
The contributions from NASA to the private sector have been numerous over the years for companies both in the aerospace field and out. Anyone who has spent a night on a memory foam mattress, used a GPS on a road-trip, or sent a text message has benefited from one of NASA’s many technological breakthroughs — whether they’ve realized it or not. It seems the time has finally come for the private industry to repay the favor. Read more.
Wherever disaster looms in the world, someone is watching from outer space to see if help is needed.
It’s not a superhero, alas, but a group of organizations, working under the umbrella of a United Nations agency. These organizations are part of the Global Disaster Alert and Coordination System (GDACS), and they’re on call, day and night, to provide up-to-the-minute satellite information on potential disasters and to help organize humanitarian response teams. Read more.
The world’s Earth observation operations are facing tough times. Earlier this year, a group of U.S. scientists warned that many of the nation’s Earth-observing satellites were growing so old that, unless budget plans are stepped up to replace them, there might be only a quarter of them left by the end of this decade.
From sea and shore, and especially from space, Canada looks to be in a good position right now. As ice melts and opens the Northwest Passage, more and more commercial vessels will seek this shorter voyage through the Arctic waters.
As ships arrive, they will need land-based support along the way; as well as detailed maps and weather reports to guide them. And who better to provide sea captains, corporations, mapmakers, and forecasters with the information they’ll need than the Canadian Space Agency?
That was the message the agency’s president, Steve Maclean, had for scientists, academics, technicians, and others attending the Canadian Hydrographic Conferences in Niagara Falls, Ontario. Read more.
Using satellite imagery to look for tsunami debris floating across the Pacific Ocean toward the west coasts of North America — it’s not as easy as you might think.
A U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) official was grilled last month by U.S. senators. The senators wanted to know what was being done to keep track of the estimated four million-plus tons of debris washed into the ocean by the March 2011 tsunami that engulfed the coast of Japan. Read more.
Firstly, what are Earth observation instruments? Secondly, why do we need them?
A recent report suggests a decline of U.S. Earth observation instruments within the next eight years, and it’s caused quite a buzz — especially over concerns that the losses could seriously hinder weather forecasting. In particular, the ability to spot tropical disturbances early and track their formation into hurricanes. Read more.