Space Debris Removal Indispensable For Future Space Exploration Programs, ESA And NASA Experts Suggest

First Posted: Apr 24, 2017 06:00 AM EDT

Space debris removal is one of the main challenges that space agencies face to ensure the continuation of space exploration programs. The recently held European Conference on Space Debris made a successful effort in drawing the attention of peer researchers and private space agencies toward the issue. The conference showcased some highly interesting short films like Space Debris: A Journey To Earth and Gravity that were based on the dangerous outcomes of space debris accumulation.

Space Debris Will Cause Orbital Nagasaki

International space agencies including NASA and ESA have been emphasizing on the adverse outcomes of launching innumerable satellites into orbit. The junk formed from them includes defunct satellites, splinters formed after accidental collisions and small freckles of paint that continue orbiting in the space. Accidental collision of these small junk particles traveling at extremely high speed can potentially damage the wind shields and solar panels of satellites and the International Space Station (ISS).

According to Brevard Times, the two incidents that led to the production of most number of trackable space debris are the 2007 Feng Yun-1C anti-satellite test by China and the accidental collision between Iridium-33 and Cosmos-2251 in 2009. The combined number of trackable junk pieces produced in these incidents is around 5,700.

As per the most recent public release by the NASA Technical Reports Server, the NASA Standard Satellite Breakup Model (SSBM) explained how the Titan 3C-17 Transtage rocket break-up incident caused the formation of a debris cloud.

According to Donald Kessler, a retired NASA scientist, these fragments may cause a continual cascade of collisions between themselves and with other space objects (including functional satellites) to create even more number of debris particles. This kind of amplification effect, which he called an "orbital Nagasaki," could be detrimental for future space exploration programs.

The severity of the issue can be imagined from the fact that the ISS team members climb into the escape shuttle every time a space junk passes by. This was explained by ESA astronaut Thomas Pesquet who further added that this has already happened four times since he reached the ISS in November 2016, according to CDA News.

Based upon these analyses, the scientists from various space agencies called for the implementation of an international code of conduct. This can not only help in regulating space activates that could further worsen the condition of space pollution but it can also work toward finding a solution for the same. Such space debris removal initiatives are highly important for the long-term sustainability of spaceflight.

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