Air Force is building a new radar on Kwajalein Atoll to track space debris

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(generic image of phased-array radar)

(From Science, 9 January 2015, article by Ilima Loomis)

“An estimated 500,000 pieces of space junk—old satellites, rocket parts, debris from collisions—swarm in orbit around Earth. Much of it is potentially deadly: NASA officials say anything larger than 1 centimeter in diameter poses a threat to the International Space Station. But current tracking systems can generally only watch objects 10 cm or larger, and the U.S. government currently follows less than 5% of space hazards—just 23,000 objects. That should change with the addition of a powerful new Air Force radar system, scheduled to break ground this month on Kwajalein Atoll in the Marshall Islands. When it comes online in 2019, the flood of information passed along to nonmilitary spacecraft operators will bring reassurance—but also some wrenching choices about which hazards to ignore.”

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About Seelye Martin

Seelye Martin received his Ph.D. in engineering mechanics from Johns Hopkins University in 1967 then spent two years as a research associate in the Department of Meteorology at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. In 1969 he took up a position in the School of Oceanography at the University of Washington where he is now an Emeritus Professor. Beginning in 1987, he taught courses on remote sensing of the oceans. Professor Martin has been involved with passive microwave, visible/infrared and radar ice research since 1979, and has served on a number of NASA and NOAA committees and panels involving remote sensing and high latitude processes. He has made many trips to the Arctic for research on sea ice properties and oceanography. From 2006-2008, he worked at NASA Headquarters as Program Manager for the Cryosphere, where he also served as program scientist for the ICESat-1 and ICESat-2 missions. After leaving Headquarters, from 2009 -2012, he worked in a variety of roles for the NASA high-latitude IceBridge remote sensing aircraft program. For this work, in 2012 he was awarded the NASA Exceptional Public Service Medal.
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