International Space Station

Harpoons are the Newest, Old Idea for Dealing with Space Junk

Imagine a time when concerned citizens actually cheer for a harpoon as it thumps into its target. Sound unlikely? The use of harpoons could be one solution for clearing out the space junk floating around our planet. We’ve covered some other options with earlier posts.

Astrium has plans on the drawing board to use harpoons mounted on so-called “chaser satellites” to clean up Earth’s orbit. The chaser sats will have a regular orbital patrol and will seek out junk as it flies along. Continue reading

First Official SpaceX Mission Launch is a Success

Engineering on the Edge has been following the progression of the commercial entities that have stepped up to replace NASA’s retired space shuttle program for some time now. It’s astonishing how quickly the project has gone through testing. On October 7, the first official SpaceX mission lifted off from Cape Canaveral.

The launch marks the return of spacefaring capability to the United States. The U.S. government had been paying Russia to provide support for its crew onboard the International Space Station (ISS). The launch went off without a hitch and the Dragon is now (as of writing) on its way to dock with the ISS to deliver supplies and equipment. Continue reading

Toothbrush Provides Quick Fix for International Space Station

It’s not often I get to write about an event that encompasses engineering, space flight, and oral hygiene, but here it is. Earlier this month a pair of astronauts at the International Space Station repaired the station’s power system during a six-hour spacewalk—and had to use a modified toothbrush to do it.

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Swiss Space Center Looks to Clean Up Space Junk

How many times have you seen an empty, half-crushed bag lying in the middle of the street and swerved to avoid it? That has to be some kind of species paranoia at work. You never can tell what might be in the bag that might mess up your car, right? How about the sudden horror of realizing you don’t have time to swerve before you hit the bag. Do you breathe a little easier when your car doesn’t explode after you pass over it?

Now imagine instead of just sitting there, maybe blowing a bit in the wind, that the junk in your path was moving at close to 17,400 mph. Imagine sitting on the International Space Station watching a chunk of space trash no more than a foot long zipping toward you, knowing it could kill everyone on board. Ditto for manned space flights.

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