Cameras to be installed at Kielder Observatory to track Space Junk

A team of engineers and orbital experts are about to install four cameras at the Kielder Observatory in Northumberland to track satellites and space junk. 

The cameras will monitor the behaviour of objects in space and evaluate any potential collisions between satellites and space debris.

If a major collision is identified, which could pose a threat to technology on our planet, like satellite navigation, it is flagged up to the UK Space Agency who decide what action to take.

Founder of Northern Space and Security, Ralph Dinsley told ITV News Tyne Tees: "Tracking objects in space, because they’re orbiting earth at a very fast speed, you’ll see it once every 90 minutes or so, or maybe once every week, depending on its orbit. So being able to have systems that are geographically separated to be able to pick up the same object and other objects at different points in their trajectory enables you to track them more accurately, predict any risks that might occur like potential collisions in space and then you can plan for them."

There are thought to be around half a million items of debris zooming around the earth at speeds of up to 18,000 miles an hour.

Credit: ITV News

Even the smallest of items could cause a huge amount of damage if it were to collide with an object in space.

Mr Dinsley added: "A small piece could knock a satellite’s trajectory. A large piece could actually destroy that satellite, creating more debris and this could lead to what’s known as the Kessler Effect. It’s where a couple of objects collide, create more debris. Those objects will hit other pieces of debris and it will cascade. We would lose an awful lot of benefit that space technology has provided society."

Kielder Observatory is the perfect place to install the cameras for this type of research, according to its Director of Astronomy, Dan Pye.

He said: "We’re inside of the largest expanse of protected dark skies in Europe of the highest gold tier standard, so that’s the best clarity of dark skies that you can get, less ambient light pollution from towns and cities, which is perfect for these guys to operate."

Once the data is analysed for potential risks or threats to Earth, the information is written up into a report by orbital analysts and then sent to the UK Space Agency.

The Head of Space Surveillance & Tracking, Jacob Geer, said: "The action that we take is to work out if there’s going to be a potential collision and then warn people, so they can move their satellite out of the way. In the longer term, sending a mission a launch from somewhere like Scotland or Cornwall, as we hope to do in the next few years, to go up to remove debris, take it back down to the atmosphere, burn it up harmlessly and then reduce the problem."