Testing to see how the Canadian Space Agency’s asteroid-hunting satellite, NEOSSat,
fares against radio frequencies.
Photograph courtesy Janice Lang, DRDC

Suitcase-size Satellite to Patrol for Dangerous Asteroids

The space telescope will spot near-Earth objects and keep tabs on space junk.

Andrew Fazekas
for National Geographic News
Published February 20, 2013

Earth received a wakeup call last week with a double shot of incoming space rocks—the near miss of asteroid DA14 and the Russian meteor explosion. Our planet is in a cosmic shooting gallery and more work needs to be done to survey menacing asteroids, astronomers say.

Now the Canadian Space Agency is stepping up to the plate to help do just that with the launch of a new sentinel to detect and track near-Earth objects (NEOs). The pint-size space telescope is hitching a ride into orbit aboard an Indian rocket on February 25.

Even though the Near-Earth Object Space Surveillance Satellite (NEOSSat) might find it challenging to hunt down relatively smaller size meteors, like the one that crashed in Russia last week, it will be the first telescope in orbit dedicated to keeping tabs on what’s buzzing around Earth. (“Pictures: Meteorite Hits Russia.”)

In addition to keeping an eye out for space rocks, NEOSSat will pull double duty by monitoring traffic among the increasing crowd of orbiting satellites—guarding against collisions between wayward space junk. (Learn about how satellite collisions create dangerous debris.)

In recent years there have been a few head-on collisions between orbiting satellites and several near misses with the International Space Station, making this a concern for satellite providers and space agencies.

Read more: Suitcase-size Satellite to Patrol for Dangerous Asteroids — National Geographic.

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