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Space Junk PICTURES: Space Debris-Monitoring Satellite Set To Launch

The Huffington Post/AP   First Posted: 09/22/10 07:09 PM ET   Updated: 05/25/11 06:50 PM ET

SCHRIEVER AIR FORCE BASE, Colo. -- A satellite that will monitor the clutter in Earth orbit is scheduled to launch Saturday, nearly three months later than originally planned.

The Space-Based Space Surveillance satellite was scheduled to launch on July 8, but it was grounded by concerns about software in the Minotaur IV rocket and a problem in the rocket's electronics.

Officials said there were no problems in the satellite itself.

It's designed to give the Air Force its first full-time, space-based surveillance of satellites and debris in Earth's orbit. It monitors them for possible collisions.

Launch will be at Vandenberg Air Force Base, Calif. A command center at Schriever Air Force Base, Colo., will oversee day-to-day operations once in orbit.

As renderings of orbital debris show, the Space-Based Space Surveillance satellite has its work cut out for it. Take a look at incredible images that map the massive amounts of space debris orbiting the Earth in the photos below.

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NASA explains that the low Earth orbit region of space is "the most concentrated area for orbital debris."

NASA says of this image (and the following two pictures):
The following graphics are computer generated images of objects in Earth orbit that are currently being tracked. Approximately 95% of the objects in this illustration are orbital debris, i.e., not functional satellites. The dots represent the current location of each item. The orbital debris dots are scaled according to the image size of the graphic to optimize their visibility and are not scaled to Earth. These images provide a good visualization of where the greatest orbital debris populations exist. Below are the graphics generated from different observation points.
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Image credit: NASA