BUFFALO, NY - A University at Buffalo professor and his students have scored a major coup, after NASA agreed to send the satellite they spent two years designing and building, into space.
The shoe boxed sized "GLADOS"-- which stand for "Glint Analyzing Data Observation Satellite" is designed to track the size and orbit of "space junk".
While the hundreds of thousands of "dead" items now cluttering lower space pose almost no danger to people on earth, they can potentially wreak havoc on anything of value orbiting the globe, such as satellites, telescopes, or the manned space station.
"An object the size of a marble could actually wipe out a satellite," explained John Crassidis, a professor of mechanical and aerospace engineering at UB, who noted that both the space debris and the object it might collide with would each be traveling 17,500 miles per hour.
Indeed, just one year ago astronauts operating the International Space Station had to take shelter in a Soyuz capsule attached to the space station amid the threat of a space junk strike.
Crassidis has long theorized that glints of sunlight reflecting off space debris, could determine its size, shape, mass and spin.
GLADOS, with its on board cameras and navigation equipment, could possibly help predict the path of space debris several months in advance, thus avoiding orbital collisions, and the untold damage it could create upon craft, whose course could then be altered.
The US Air Force provided a grant for $300,000 to fund the prototype, which Crassidis and a team of 40 engineering students then designed and built.
Getting the Glint Analyzing Data Observation Satellite into space is a huge step, not only for Crassidis, but also for his students who view the practical experience as priceless.
"It's phenomenal," said Andrew Dianneti, a Senior engineering major from Lancaster. "It's something that's very rewarding and something we're all very fortunate to be a part of," he said.
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