April 18th, 2013
10:14 PM ET

Space harpoon plan to nail orbital garbage

By Dave Gilbert, CNN

What do you do with 6,000 tons of space junk traveling at thousands of miles an hour? Harpoon it of course.

It might sound like a scenario straight off the pages of a science fiction novel but it is a suggested solution to an increasing and potentially costly problem in space - that of debris littering low earth orbit.

The harpoon plan is one of a range of options being discussed by scientists at a forum in Germany next week, and aimed at finding a way of tackling space debris that threatens commercial operations.

Engineer Jaime Reed, who is leading the harpoon project for the space technology company Astrium, explains that if a rogue satellite hits another, not only does it ruin the mission but it creates more debris and propagates the problem. This run-away scenario is often called the Kessler Syndrome, named after NASA's Don Kessler who first highlighted the risk.


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Filed under: In Space
Is time running out for the leap second?
January 19th, 2012
10:06 AM ET

Is time running out for the leap second?

Thursday could be a key moment in the future of time keeping.

More than 100 countries are due to decide on whether to keep the present method of adding so-called leap seconds to the global time system at the Radiocommunications Assembly in Geneva, Switzerland.

Currently, this Co-ordinated Universal Time or UTC is based on a system of extremely accurate atomic clocks. But they are so precise that they do not match the rotation of the Earth which periodically speeds up and slows down due to the action of the tides and changes within the Earth's core.


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Filed under: On Earth


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