Hunting for space debris

Moriba Jah, director of the computational astronomical science and technology at the Oden Institute at the University of Texas at Austin, describes herself as a “space environmentalist” (a term that can be translated as “space ecologist”). Space “). He began his career as a US Air Force security expert, first as a space navigation engineer at NASA for seven years, then for eight years at the US Air Force Research Laboratory, specifically as director of Astria, at the Institute for Advanced Research. Aeronautical Science and Technology

Picture of Moriba Jah,

Engineers and scientists,

University of Texas

Moriba Jah has since set herself a mission: to make the world around us cleaner, more sustainable, and safer. To do this, it relies on a graph-based database, AstriaGraph, which tracks more than 26,000 objects in orbit around our planet.

About 3,500 of them, such as the ISS (International Space Station) and active satellites, have a purpose. The rest is made up of debris and decomposed material.

With more attention, the base is tracking 200 pieces of debris that could hit and severely damage service-providing satellites such as GPS or weather.

“I want humanity to see the space environment as a finite resource; An environment that must be protected, just like land, air and oceans. Ultimately… it has to be used differently as it is used very badly with land, air and ocean, ”he said. “We need to see space around us, around the earth, as an ecosystem in its own right. I want everyone to take care of its conservation so that their lives depend on it.”

“I want humanity to see the space environment as a finite resource; An environment that must be protected, just like land, air and oceans. A

Muriba JahEngineer and scientist, University of Texas, Austin

The idea for the astrograph came to scientists when they watched a television program that showed that it was possible to cross-check a variety of data to identify unfaithful spouses – such as their telephone contacts or their Uber travels.

“It was then that I realized the power of information presented in the form of graphs. There is no need to track the activities of a person with a satellite, it is enough to be able to find, select, organize and construct accurate data from different sources, ”said Moriba Jah. “Links created in this way make it possible to discover causal relationships that would otherwise be invisible. In a graph database, each node represents an entity (a person or a thing) and each arc represents a connection or a link between two nodes. A family tree is a very common graph “.

The space data is very silent, sorry for Moriba Jah. “People who work with space weather don’t talk to satellite trackers, they don’t talk to space policy experts. Connect with others, but what? “

As soon as it was said. The engineer and his team began building AstriaGraph in 2017 based on Neo4j technology and mapped the ruins of about 200 important sites.

Has this base made it possible to reveal the invisible? “It’s on the right track,” Moriba Jah promises “Our approach allows us to show where objects are in space and then, at the same time, integrate the criteria for recommendations, rules, policies and regulations. From there, we can ask questions such as: who agrees? Who doesn’t respect specific recommendations? Does the entity respect the various agreements? Until then, no one has been able to make the connection between policy and scientific information. With AstriaGraph, we are taking a step in that direction. “

AstriaGraph monitors about 200 pieces of space debris that could collide with potential satellites that provide services such as GPS and weather warning.
AstriaGraph monitors about 200 pieces of space debris that could collide with potential satellites that provide services such as GPS and weather warning.

After the debate began in 1962, the United Nations Convention on the Object came into force in 1976, introducing “outer space” (a legal term that defines space outside the Earth’s atmosphere). It is managed by the United Nations Office on Outer Space. , Which supports the AstriaGraph project to help with its own registration system.

Until now, AstriaGraph can be seen as a research project to “showcase its possibilities”. But Moriba Ja hopes things will get better with the company Private Space, founded by Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak, to whom he works as a scientific adviser.

Today, for example, we do not know who is the biggest polluter in space.

It is also impossible to nominate countries or organizations that have flown “flags of convenience” to avoid the high seas in accordance with the rules of space. Does he think that this heinous practice already exists? Naturally, Muriba Jah answers. “But the evidence is not directly available in the public domain. What are we doing. Privateer focuses on creating a business intelligence platform that will enhance our ability to manipulate data and information. [sur l’espace], So as to get the best quality results possible. This, makes the tailor. A

“I set myself a mission based on three criteria: to make the space transparent and predictable and to make every actor responsible for what he does there.”

Muriba JahEngineer and scientist, University of Texas, Austin

“We can then provide this information to the government who wants to monitor and evaluate the consent of actors, or entrepreneurs who want to develop waste disposal activities. For this, they need to know the characteristics of the physical object: size, shape, material properties, speed of rotation. Compile this information from any database date.

Unravel the mystery

“My policy is not to hide anything. I want to unravel the mystery. Either the actors give me their data, or I’ll buy it, or I’ll reverse engineer and find out the information myself. I set myself a mission: to make the place transparent and predictable and to hold every actor accountable for what he does there. A

But in the end, why worry about this garbage that orbits the earth, but does not fall to the earth?

“The services, technologies and capabilities we enjoy today – such as banking or agricultural resource tracking – depend almost exclusively on location. Floating debris can strike a satellite at any time, disrupting, degrading, or even disrupting these services. A

Predicting the trajectory of waste (paint chips, etc.) and debris is also a prerequisite for space travel and tourism.

“People think it’s like taking a plane. We go up and then we go down. But the wreckage of space makes the situation very different, ”warns Moriba Jah. “Imagine that on a plane, you are told:” You are in the 14a seat. And one of them can puncture the cabin and hit you. But it is impossible to predict, good luck and above all a beautiful journey! ” A

On merit, Moriba Jah says he favors commercial space travel. “I think it’s a necessity,” he explained. “In all areas of human existence and experience, we have always needed to trade. Space will be no exception. [Mais] With a long-term vision, and with care for the preservation of the space environment, it is up to us to work towards accomplishing it in a sustainable way. A

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