Professor Linares builds telescope to transform space debris tracking
AEM Professor, Richard Linares and a group of University of Minnesota students have been working in collaboration with the University of Arizona to build an innovative telescope that will be transformative to the way that space debris are track now and in the future.
There are currently millions of pieces of debris in Low-Earth Orbit traveling at 4 miles per second. The vast quantity and speed of these objects is a threat to anything that crosses paths with them, especially satellite systems. This can create serious problems on earth, as we rely on satellites for many important functions such as banking transactions, GPS navigation, and global communication.
With each collision of these space debris, the probability of another occurring increases. This situation is known as the Kessler effect, and it is vital that we develop a detailed understanding of the orbital debris population’s characteristics in order to prevent it.
Professor Linares' expertise in space debris categorization combined with the University of Arizona's proficiency in small telescope technologies offers a unique capability for solving this problem; an optical telescope with the ability to track space debris and satellites.
The telescope, which was constructed by a group of five undergraduate students at the University of Arizona (UofA), is equipped with two software programs designed by the University of Minnesota (UMN): one for cataloging space debris and the other for planning observations. Through this collaboration, UMN and UofA have developed a unique state-of-the-art telescope system with the ability to track satellites and debris and provide observational data for space debris research.
The telescope has recently been completed and the team is ready to start their research program. To celebrate this, Professor Linares and his collaborators are planning an event with the Air Force that will be held at the University of Arizona's Lunar and Planetary Laboratory on June 20th, 2017.