Video: Beginning in 1988 a NASA orbital debris team began a series of meetings with European, Soviet, Japanese, and Chinese space managers and technical experts. The purpose of these meetings was to share data and conclusions concerning issues related to the orbital debris environment. The NASA team members consisted of Joe Loftus, Drew Potter and Don Kessler, from NASA JSC, plus Geroge Levin and Dan Jacobs from NASA HQ. As the organization grew, Burt Cour-Palais, Jeanne Crews, Eric Christiansen and other members of NASA and DoD also participated. These meetings were formally organized into what is now known as the Inter-Agency Space Debris Coordination Committee (IADC). Some of the early meetings were recorded and segments are included in this 2 hr video.
The position on the video of each meeting is as follows (hr:min): USSR '89 (0:0); Germany '90 (0:10); Japan '91 (0:17); China '91 (0:26); Germany/Netherlands '92 (1:02); Russia '92 (1:37); Houston '96 (1:55).
Video: Upper Stage Solid Rocket Firing in Earth Orbit:
The major source of micron-size orbital debris.
This video was captured in 1982 with a 31 inch telescope....not expecting to see the ignition of a rocket 22,000 miles away at geosynchronous altitude. What was actually seen could have been observed without a telescope...appearing to look like a small comet or a UFO quickly approaching the observer as the exhaust plume grows in size. The phenomenon is the result of light reflecting off the large quantity of aluminum oxide dust that these rockets generate.
Video: The Orbital Debris Team and Don's Family at his NASA Retirement Party, March 29, 1996, recorded by Eric Christiansen. The party was planned by Pat Williams with help from the NASA/JSC orbital debris team. The video is not only an example of the team's talent outside their professional roles, but also captures their thoughtfulness and sincerity. Missing is Karl Henize, who died on Mt. Everest. Currently retired are Jeanne Crews in Florida, Drew Potter in Arizona, John Stanley in Seabrook TX, Don Robbins in Ft.Worth TX, Robin Rowley in Richmond TX, Glen Cress in Friendswood TX, and George Levin in Fairfax VA. Others have moved on to other professions: Bob Reynolds, Faith Vilas, and Peter Eichler and Anette Bade in Germany. Burt Cour-Palais, Joe Loftus and Herb Zook have passed away and are greatly missed by the community. The remaining orbital debris team and new members continue the professionalism and thoughtfulness shown here.
Damage caused a by 1/8" aluminum sphere traveling at just over 6 km/sec. The target on the left is a 1/2" thick aluminum plate, that was nearly penetrated. A spall on the rear surface was nearly separated from the plate...if it had separated, it could have damaged other surfaces inside any container without necessarily causing a leak in the container. The target on the right is a 1/8" thick copper plate, tested with 5 layers of 0.004 aluminum sheets, each separated by 1" in front of the target. This "multi-shock shield" broke up and melted the projectile so that only a vapor spray of aluminum was deposited on the copper plate and little damage was done to it. This shielding technique was developed by Burt Cour-Palais, Jeanne Crews, and Eric Christiansen at NASA/JSC.
Fragments from the Transit/OSCAR ground hypervelocity test. A 35.4 kg operational Navy navigation satellite was impacted with a 150 g aluminum sphere at 6 km/sec, causing it to catastrophically breakup into a distribution of fragments. It is estimated that more than a million fragments larger than 1 mm were generated.
Karl G. Henize, 1926-1993
Astronaut, Scientist, Family Man, and Mountain Climber
After becoming the oldest astronaut to go into space, Karl joined the orbital debris team. As an astronomer, he was a key team member in obtaining and interpreting optical observations of orbital debris. Karl died attempting another life-long ambition....to climb Mount Everest.
A Memorial Service was conducted for Karl on October 16, 1993 at JSC.
Herbert A. Zook, 1932-2001
A True Scientist
Herb was well known for his interplanetary meteoroid work. As a valued friend and colleague, Herb could always explain what was difficult to understand. He will be remembered by many for his experimental measurements of interplanetary dust and orbital debris, his theoretical work supporting those measurements, and his predictions resulting from his theoretical work.
Burt Cour-Palais, 1925-2004
The "Grandfather" of Orbital Debris
Burt lay the foundation for both Herb Zook's and Don Kessler's career. As head of the Meteoroid Science Branch prior to 1970, Burt introduced his team to the world of meteoroids and what happens when they impact surfaces at hyper-velocities. After helping establish the orbital debris office in 1979, Burt joined it and continued his own research in developing and testing shielding for spacecraft. After retiring from NASA in 1989, Burt continued his work through Southwest Research. More details concerning Burt's career are at http://webpages.charter.net/dkessler/files/Burt%20Cour_Palais.pdf
Joseph P. Loftus, Jr. 1930-2005
"Godfather" of Orbital Debris
As the Assistant Director for Plans at JSC, Joe was the person to go to when an employee needed money to develop a program. When first approached in 1976 by Don Kessler with the orbital debris issue, Joe was immediately supportive...but was not able to obtain funding from NASA Headquarters until 3 years later. Joe increased his support as the program grew, so that well before he retired from NASA in 2001, Joe was spending all of his time contributing to the program. Joe was the guiding force in shaping the orbital debris program into the international program that it is today. Joe was always prepared to meet with national and international space organizations in order to exchange information and develop a common understanding of the issues. The international organization now known as the Inter-Agency Space Debris Coordination Committee (IADC) is a direct result of those meetings.
John Gabbard 1921-2003
John, a mentor to Taft DeVere, congratulates him on his 1982 promotion to Captain.
John Gabbard was one of the early pioneers, retiring from AF Space Command in 1982. He will be remembered by many for his Gabbard Plot; however, John contributed much more. NORAD had the charter to catalog all man-made objects, but there was no charter to keep track of events that produced debris. When any object produced unexpected debris, it was classified as an object associated with the launch of the payload. John saw a need to maintain a record of these events. In 1971, John presented the paper "Satellite Break-Ups" at a AAS/AIAA Conference, identifying 24 satellite explosions and used his plot to illustrate the characteristics of those explosions. Although NORAD did not expand its charter to include keeping track of these events, John continued to maintain a record. NASA later contracted TBE, where Nick Johnson and John established the catalog of fragmentation events currently maintained at JSC.
Gabbard Plot published in 1971
In 1971, John Gabbard introduced what we now call a "Gabbard Plot" to illustrate the characteristics of explosions in orbit. The plot is of each fragment's perigee and apogee following an explosion in orbit plotted as a function of the fragment's orbital period or semi-major axis. The plot is understood by two fundamental orbital concepts: 1. In the absence of any additional force, an orbiting object will always pass through the altitude where the last force was applied. At the time of the above plot, the atmospheric drag force had been insufficient to significantly change the original fragment's orbit for those fragments that were ejected with perigees above about 500 km. Consequently, the breakup altitude of 990 km is quickly identified by the intersection of the two wings of the plot. 2. Perigee and apogee are easily changed for those fragments ejected along the fragment velocity vector. These are the fragments that were ejected into much higher and lower orbits.
Shirley and Drew Potter
Retired in Arizona
Drew was chief of the Space Sciences Branch at JSC were the orbital debris program took roots. As an astronomer, he continued to make contributions to astronomical observations, but also made significant contributions to sampling the small orbital debris population using telescopes and radar.
Nicola Settanni making a mold for the 2008 IAASS Jerome Lederer Space Safety Pioneer Award
Don Kessler receives the IAASS Jerome Lederer Space Safety Pioneer Award in Rome from the award sponsor, Michael Saemisch, October 2008
Space Junk 3D
Video Trailer: Coming to an Imax or Museum theater in February 2012
Captain Kirk's Command Chair
Don with his sometimes invisible support, Lynn.
Star Trek exhibit at the St. Louis Science Center
Front and Back Cover of NRC Report, Folded Out
Download report at http://www.nap.edu/catalog.php?record_id=13244