Storm Steve asked:
My question is about space junk and satellite tracking. There is so much junk currently in orbit, that act as projectiles, and the junk can destroy functioning satellites. Won't these tiny CubeSats greatly increase this problem?
Ben - Earth’s orbit is becoming very crowded, but it’s a great question. I asked Chris Castelli, who said that CubeSats will only be in low earth orbits, only 90 to 100 kilometres above the ground. And as there’s still an atmosphere up there, that will exert a drag on the CubeSats, and they will quite naturally drop out of orbit, and harmlessly burn up in the atmosphere. So, existing satellites should be safe.
In the Naked Astronomy podcast "The Biggest Questions in the Universe"
The problem is not so much the satellites themselves(which can be tracked and accounted for) but streams small particles caused by the destruction of or collisions between satellites. Even a small flake of paint at a relative speed greater than a rifle bullet can be very destructive. Soul Surfer, Tue, 27th Jul 2010
I asked this very question to Chris Castelli, but had to lose it in the edit as the interview was too long. Here's a transcript from the unedited audio:
From what I know, there are CubeSat pico satellite in a 500 km polar orbit, so they will not come on Earth too soon. palau, Sat, 7th Aug 2010
I'd not heard of cubesats... Is this a cubesat?
The latest Kentucky Space CubeSat will test deploying a tether behind the CubeSat, increasing drag and meeting the NASA requirement of objects to be removed from orbit within 25 years of their launch.