Posted on behalf of Brian Owens.
The first satellite designed to search for and keep track of asteroids and space debris was launched into orbit today.
The Canadian Space Agency’s suitcase-sized Near-Earth Object Surveillance Satellite (NEOSSat) will circle the globe every 100 minutes, scanning space to pick out asteroids that may one day pose a threat to Earth.
NEOSSat will focus on the day side of the sky, which is not visible from ground-based observatories. It is hoped that the mission will discover at least half of the asteroids 1 kilometre across or larger within Earth’s orbit.
The mission will also keep an eye on high-altitude satellites, and monitor orbiting space junk to try to minimize collisions. Tests of anti-satellite weapons and collisions between satellites have led to an increase in the amount of orbiting debris in recent years, leading to several near-misses with the International Space Station.
The new probe lifted off from from Satish Dhawan Space Centre in Sriharikota, India, riding on an Indian-made rocket together with other satellites.