Nanosail-D has sailed home, burning up in the atmosphere on September 17

The solar sail Nanosail-D has sailed home, burning up in the atmosphere on September 17.

The flight phase of the mission successfully demonstrated a deorbit capability that could potentially be used to bring down decommissioned satellites and space debris by re-entering and totally burning up in the Earth’s atmosphere. The team continues to analyze the orbital data to determine how future satellites can use this new technology.

The concept being tested appears to use a solar sail as a navigating tool for guiding defunct satellites back into the atmosphere.

A second large satellite will rain debris down in October

Even if UARS misses you today, don’t relax! A second large satellite, the 2.4 ton ROSAT X-Ray space telescope, is going to rain debris down late in October or early November.

On its ROSAT website, DLR estimates that “up to 30 individual debris items with a total mass of up to 1.6 tonnes might reach the surface of the Earth. The X-ray optical system, with its mirrors and a mechanical support structure made of carbon-fibre reinforced composite – or at least a part of it – could be the heaviest single component to reach the ground.”

ISS to be deorbited in 2020

The head of the Russian space agency said today that ISS will be deorbited in 2020, as agreed to by the governments running it.

Wanna bet? They are only now starting to do the research the station is best designed for, and learning how to live in space for years is going to take years. Come 2020, that work will hardly be done. Moreover, the impossibility of replacing ISS without a shuttle to haul up large modules and trusses will make very appealing the idea of keeping the present station in operation.

Then again, everything I just wrote is simple common sense, and who ever expected common sense from these governments?