ESA Says- Stop Crowding Earth’s Orbital Environment

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ESA’s Space Environment report highlights space debris as a major problem, stating that the problem will worsen even if we stop sending objects into orbit.

The report states: “Our planet is surrounded by spacecraft carrying out important work to study our changing climate, deliver global communication and navigation services, and help us answer important scientific questions. But some of their orbits are getting crowded and increasingly churning with deadly, fast-moving pieces of defunct satellites and rockets that threaten our future in space.”

According to Interesting Engineering, the term space debris refers to abandoned human-made items in space that can range from tiny paint flakes to full, defunct satellites. Their tendency to collide with active spacecraft makes them a significant hazard for space missions and satellite operations.

Furthermore, left unsupervised they can cause damage and create even more debris in a cascading worsening effect, with even little particles posing a threat to significantly damage active and useful space objects due to their kinetic energy.

When it comes to keeping track, space agencies regularly monitor space debris using ground-based radar and optical tracking systems. There are also numerous international standards and recommended practices in place to reduce the creation of new space debris, including actions like deorbiting satellites when their missions are complete, or creating spacecraft with little fragmentation.

Despite calls to stop sending things into space, ESA says that this would not resolve the issue, explaining that “even if we launched nothing from now on, collisions among the space debris objects already in orbit would cause the problem to get worse.”

To deal with this, ESA argued for stricter space debris regulations, including the implementation of various new technologies like harpoons, nets, and electrodynamic tethers that are developed to remove space debris.

While space operations constantly expand, space agencies, organizations, and researchers are acting to reduce the threats posed by space debris and working to develop plans for the sustainable use of Earth’s orbital environment. If not taken seriously and dealt with, this issue could result in less space for new satellites, and hinder space missions.