[OT?] XSS-11

From: Daniel Webb (lists@danielwebb.us)
Date: Mon Oct 31 2005 - 19:23:08 EST

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     This is the first photograph taken by a microsatellite of another object in
    space that has ever been released to the general public. The object near the
    center is the upper stage of a Minotaur I rocket that was used to launch the
    Experimental Satellite System-11, commonly known as XSS-11. The photograph was
    taken by the digital "witness camera" aboard XSS-11, a dishwasher-size
    microsatellite developed by the Air Force Research Laboratory.
    XSS-11 was launched in April and has since conducted numerous "proximity
    operations"?approaching and maneuvering around the spent Minotaur rocket stage
    at distances as close as 500 meters (the distance at which this photo was
    taken, about a third of a mile). Over the next year, the spacecraft will
    rendezvous with several other U.S.-owned dead or inactive objects in space.
    Out of curiosity, how far from its original orbit could this satellite
    possibly maneuver?  In the factsheet put out by the Air Force Research Lab:
    they say that it will observe objects "near" its own orbit.  I don't know that
    much about astrodynamics, so this may be a naive question, but wouldn't they
    have to have a lot of these up in various orbits if they wanted to be able to
    attack (oops, I mean "inspect") any arbitrary satellite?  Or are there tricks
    they can play with orbital dynamics to get to any satellite with enough
    Also, is this too off-topic?
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