Space junk is an undeniable problem when there’s over 500,000 dead satellites, spacecraft pieces and other human-made obstacles that could crash into active orbiting vehicles. DARPA is more than a little overwhelmed in trying to track all those hazards by itself, so it’s recruiting amateur help through its new SpaceView program. The effort will buy time for non-professional astronomers on existing telescopes, or even supply hardware directly, to track the spaceborne debris without the sheer expense of growing an existing surveillance network. While that amounts to using hobbyists purely as volunteers, DARPA notes that the strategy could be a win-win for some when hardware donated for SpaceView could be used for regular astronomy in spare moments. The challenge is getting through the sign-up phase. While SpaceView is taking applications now, it’s initially focusing on options for standard commercial telescopes and hand-picking those who have permanent access to hardware in the right locations — there’s no guarantee a backyard observatory will pass muster. Those who do clear the bar might sleep well knowing that satellites and rockets should be that much safer in the future.
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