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A Second Chance for Damaged Satellites Who Face Their Last Odyssey

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Published on Thursday, 23 December 2021

38,000 kilometres above Earth — beyond the Hubble telescope, the International Space Station, and even the farthest-flung geostationary satellites — is a graveyard. Littered with over 3,000 defunct satellites, this is where geostationary satellites come to die. These retired behemoths invested their final three months of operational fuel into reaching this orbit, just 300 kilometers above the geostationary ring. They will remain here for potentially millions of years, silently circling our great-great-grandchildren’s world — the loneliest trash in the solar system.

Satellites, like all hardware, inevitably break down. They run out of fuel, experience a malfunction, or become obsolete. After millions — or billions — invested, even relatively minor malfunctions can render entire satellites inoperational, forcing their owners to make difficult choices (if, indeed, any options remain) about how and where to abandon their suddenly worthless hardware. But these tough choices might soon be obsolete. That’s thanks, in part, to SnT’s Computer Vision, Imaging & Machine Intelligence (CVI2) research group who have partnered with space-industry start-up Lift Me Off (LMO) to develop computer-vision technology that could help enable automated satellite repair missions.

 

Read the full article from our Annual Report 2020 here.