Editorials

The University of Maryland Establishes a New Space Debris Research Center

(May 27, 2014)

Bethesda – Over the past several months growing concern regarding the eventual impact of orbital debris on our access and use of near-Earth space has become evident in the world news media and even in the film industry through, “Gravity.” The stark reality is simply that the problem is growing exponentially, while little has been done to find a solution. Over past decades government-sponsored research has resulted in an impressive array of gathered data, digital simulations and analyses. The U.S. Air Force tracks over 23,000 orbiting objects. Spacecraft/debris collision predictions offer some insight into the growing danger to operational satellites, but offer little actionable avoidance solutions due to a lack of tracking measurement accuracies and the limited ability of most spacecraft to maneuver effectively.  The international space community has recommended a number of ways to limit the creation of new debris and many suggestions have been implemented. Nevertheless, the debris problem continues to grow.

Last year, the University of Maryland initiated a new activity that will focus on education and research addressing this important long-term problem. After months of planning and preparation, just last week the new Center for Orbital Debris Education and Research (CODER) was publically announced and a new website has been introduced (www.coder.umd.edu)

The goal of this new university activity is to establish an international center for education and research focused on investigations and experiments leading to a better understanding of the issues and innovative 5.25.14.1solutions to the impending negative effects of orbital debris. To achieve this goal CODER will address important issues related to the short- and long-term impacts of orbital debris on limiting our access and use of space. Areas to be addressed include technology and systems, space policy, environmental modeling, economics and social impacts. CODER’s objectives include the development of policies, laws, technologies and systems that will lead to the cost-effective remediation and control of space environmental pollutants. The Center is seeking national and international collaboration and inclusiveness. Furthermore, multiple sources of domestic and international support are envisioned.

CODER’s strategic approach involves the formation of a core research group involving the University of Maryland and other research and government organizations. The Center is establishing a consortium of domestic and international academic, government and commercial partners to help guide and support education and research programs. CODER will be soliciting funds from multiple sources for focused and interdisciplinary activities. In addition, there will be an active and ongoing outreach program involving hosted workshops, conferences and networking opportunities. CODER has ambitious goals that will hopefully lead to long-overdue answers concerning orbital debris issues.

For those of you who are involved in dealing with space debris issues, Launchspace is offering a special one-day seminar on the subject of “Space Debris and the Future of Space Flight,” on September 22, 2014 in the Dulles, VA. Please check this out by clicking (Course 9200 Catalog).

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