SpaceX rocket launch could threaten Hampton University satellite, officials say


HAMPTON, Va. (WAVY) — 143 new satellites in space are on a collision course threatening existing satellites, including Hampton University’s very own Aeronomy of Ice in the Mesosphere (AIM) satellite.

According to the website, the SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket is set to launch a batch of satellites designed to beam broadband across the world on January 21.

According to Hampton University officials, the AIM satellite is at-risk because it carries no propulsion fuel on-board to dodge other objects headed for a collision. Other missions that could be affected by the SpaceX launch include SWIFT, Hubble Space Telescope, CYGNSS and FGST.

AIM is the first and only NASA mission to be 100% led by an HBCU.

“I believe this issue is among the first of many conjunctions between public needs and the financial goals of the private sector,” said Dr. James Russell, AIM Principal Investigator, Endowed Professor, and Co-Director of the Hampton University Center for Atmospheric Sciences.

“When you put this many satellites in the same orbit, you’re begging for trouble. I think it highlights the urgent need to establish some kind of regulation and control over what the private sector can and cannot do.”

Since its launch on April 2007, the AIM mission has been exploring Polar Mesospheric Clouds (PMCs), also called noctilucent clouds, to find out why they form and why they are changing.

For almost 14 years, AIM has been monitoring the clouds to better understand their variability, their possible connection to climate change and how atmospheric changes on the edge of space are coupled to lower atmosphere weather.

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