Mars, Moon, Saturn … Space Debris increasing rapidly due to rocket satellite spacecraft launch

Space Debris - India TV Hindi News
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Space Debris

Highlights

  • increasing garbage due to space race
  • space debris falling on earth
  • Fragments can even kill human beings

Space Debris: The chances of someone getting killed by space junk falling from the sky can seem pretty slim. After all, no one has died from such an accident so far, although there have been cases of injuries and damage to property. But given that we are launching a large number of satellites, rockets and probes into space, do we need to start taking the risk more seriously? A new study published in Nature Astronomy estimates that people are expected to die from falling rocket parts over the next ten years. Every minute of every day, debris pours down upon us from space—a danger of which we are almost completely unaware.

Small particles of satellites and comets fall on the surface of the earth, but they go unnoticed. It adds about 40,000 tons of dust to Earth every year. These particles are not a problem for us, but such debris can damage spacecraft—as recently happened with the James Webb Space Telescope. Occasionally, a large sample in the form of a meteorite hits the ground, and perhaps once every 100 years, a meteorite of tens of meters passes through the atmosphere and falls to the earth to form a crater. It is fortunate that it is very rare for objects of the size of a kilometer to reach the surface, if so, it can cause death and destruction. The extinction of the dinosaurs that once roamed the earth was the result of one such event.

fragments can enter the earth’s atmosphere

These are examples of natural space debris, whose uncontrolled arrival is unpredictable and is more or less uniform across the globe. However, the new study examined the possibility of the uncontrolled arrival of artificial space debris, such as rocket launches and detached pieces of rockets attached to satellites. Using mathematical modeling of the positions and orbits of rocket fragments in space and the population densities beneath them, as well as 30 years of data from past satellite data, the authors estimated when rocket debris and other fragments of space would return to land. can come. They found that there is a small, but significant risk of similar fragments re-entering the atmosphere in the coming decade.

But this is more likely to happen at southern latitudes than at northern latitudes. In fact, the study estimated that the chances of rocket fragments falling over the latitudes of Jakarta in Indonesia, Dhaka in Bangladesh or Lagos in Nigeria are nearly three times greater than those of New York in the US, Beijing in China or Moscow in Russia. The authors also predict casualties as a result of uncontrolled rockets re-entering the atmosphere over the next decade.

Assuming that each re-entry spreads deadly debris over an area of ​​ten square metres, they found that it has a 10 percent chance of causing an average of one or more casualties over the next decade.

Fuel and batteries can cause explosions

To date, the potential for damage to the Earth’s surface (or air traffic in the atmosphere) from satellite and rocket debris has been considered negligible. Most studies of such space debris have focused on the in-orbit risk posed by inactive satellites, which could hinder the safe operation of a functioning satellite. Unused fuel and batteries also cause an in-orbit explosion which generates additional waste. But as the number of entries into the rocket launch business grows—and moves from government to private enterprise—it’s highly likely that the number of accidents, both in space and on Earth, such as those following the launch of the Chinese Long March 5B, will increase. will also increase.

There are a number of technologies that make it entirely possible to control debris re-entry, but they are costly to implement. For example, spacecraft can be ‘inactivated’, allowing unused energy (such as fuel or batteries) to be spent rather than stored after the spacecraft’s lifetime is over. The choice of orbit for the satellite can also reduce the potential for debris generation. A passive satellite can be programmed to be carried into low Earth orbit, where it will burn up. There are also attempts to launch reusable rockets, for example, SpaceX has demonstrated and Blue Origin is developing. These create very little debris, although there will be some debris from paint and metal shavings when they return to Earth in a controlled manner.

The study argues that advanced technologies and more thoughtful mission design will reduce the rate of uncontrolled re-entry of spacecraft debris, reducing the risk of a worldwide hazard. In five years, it will be 70 years since the launch of the first satellite into space. It would be a fitting celebration of that eventuality if it could be marked by a strong and mandatory international treaty on space debris, ratified by all members of the United Nations. Ultimately all countries will benefit from such an agreement.

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