Simulation shows how space junk spreads after a satellite breaks up

US NRL does the arithmetic

Impact chip on the ISS
Cosmic smash ... the effect of a paint chip hitting an International Space Station window

Vid Whether it's a satellite breaking up or the detritus of a launch, the whole space community agrees that space junk is a huge problem.

After all, even a fleck of paint can make a noticeable dent in the International Space Station's windows.

Tracking space debris is a lot easier if you know where to look, so US Naval Research Laboratory (NRL) boffin Dr Liam Healy's done just that.

In a video posted by the NRL, Healy's simulation shows the expanding cloud of debris from a disintegrating satellite. (It's interesting to observe that the spot where the disintegration starts gets the least amount of debris.)

At its Facebook page, the NRL says the simulation needed around 24 hours on a 32-core machine to create.

Astrophysics undergrads have no problem with the basic math – the simulation was based on the Lambert solution for Keplerian two-body orbit propagation.

However: “For any point on the plane at any elapsed time, there may be zero, one, or more” solutions – up to several dozen.

Youtube Video

Enough from us – watch the video. ®

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