HC Deb 02 November 1998 vol 318 cc352-3W
Mr. Öpik

To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what assessment his Department has made of the possible threat to defence satellites presented by the Leonids meteorite shower; what steps it has taken; and if he will make a statement. [56926]

Mr. Doug Henderson

The Defence Evaluation and Research Agency (DERA) has assessed the possible damaging effects that the Leonids meteor shower could present to defence satellites. Indications are that direct impacts with the spacecraft are unlikely to penetrate its skin, but may cause some non-catastrophic erosion of its outer surfaces and solar arrays by sand-blast effect. However, electrostatic interference could introduce anomalous events within the spacecraft electronics. Since it is not possible to remove the spacecraft from the threat, actions are in hand to minimise the possibility of damage. Firstly, to reduce the risk of collision, it is intended to offset the solar arrays to present the smallest practicable cross sectional area during the period of the Leonids shower. Secondly, the operating teams will be reinforced with system experts to manage any electronic problems, and they will closely monitor the spacecraft status prior to, during and after the shower.

The actions being taken to protect defence satellites from the Leonids shower are commensurate with the risk and will themselves not interrupt military communications operations.

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