Our society is reliant on satellites for many important everyday activities: travel, farming, communications, and entertainment are a few examples. As we launch more satellites, the risk of a satellite colliding with another satellite or a piece of space junk increases, threatening those satellite services we depend on. This presentation will review the many ways we use satellites, how space collisions happen, how much of a danger space collisions are, and what can be done to prevent space collisions. Along the way, we will see that collisions in space have surprising results because of the extremely high collision speeds, we will learn why most satellites simply cannot maneuver out of the way of space junk, and why supercomputers are part of the solution to minimizing collisions. Surprisingly, launching additional satellites can help reduce the problem by providing better information on the location of space objects.

Speaker Bios

Dr. John Henderson

Dr. John Henderson is a remote sensing scientist at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory. He leads the Space Systems Group in the Global Security Directorate. He has worked on weather satellites, nano-satellites, ion accelerators, and a cloud LIDAR. His publications and research interests include low-temperature solid state physics, atomic physics, optical remote sensing, laser communication, remote sensing for treaty verification, and technologies for space situational awareness. He collaborates with the CTBT Organization on treaty work, and the Naval PostGraduate School, Air Force Research Laboratory and other DOE labs on the space situational awareness work. He has a B.S. in Engineering Physics from the Colorado School of Mines, and a M.S. and Ph.D. in Physics from Stanford University.

Tom Shefler

Granada High School

Mr. Shefler received a Bachelor of Science degree in physics and applied mathematics from Western Michigan University in 1997 and a Master of Arts degree in astronomy and astrophysics from the University of California at Berkeley in 2000. While at Berkeley, he researched analyzed and cataloged Hubble Space Telescope images of galaxies, observational research involved in the detection and study of extrasolar planets, and discovered Supernova 1998DT while working with the Katzman Automatic Imaging Telescope team. During his graduate studies he fell in love with teaching and entered the teaching profession in 2002.