Space Junk: A Future Menance

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What once was  considered a thing of no concern has now become a great threat to Earth as well as for the universe. Welcome to the world of space debris. If you thought that waste management is a big problem for us and for our earth and that only our planet is that much full of waste then let me tell you that we waste and debris loving race called as ‘homo sapiens ‘ zoologically have made also feel like home by giving our galaxy a big dangerous gift called space debris . No wonder that our ambitious aeronautical organizations from different countries have paid least attention to the amount of debris they leave in outer space with their each new voyage to space. Often , the answers to queries about the same are shrugged off with lame answers with most common being , ‘ we are working on it’ .  Though it is hard to believe that there can be any waste in-universe for a common person but if you are keen about learning about space and things related to it then you must know how dangerous it is. However we need to realise the seriousness of this issue and address it as soon as possible and in the best possible way before it becomes a major hurdle for future exploration programs and for the current exploration programs that are already in function.

 WHAT IS SPACE JUNK? 

Space junk or space waste is the-the amount of defunct objects or metal pieces in and around the earth’s orbital. It includes everything from old dysfunctional satellites, broken and corroded metal pieces, corroded parts of satellites and all. Such waste poses great threat not only to the orbiting planets and functional satellites , but also to new space crafts as they may get damaged if some sharp, pointed metal object hits it causing threat to the astronauts and grant financial setback to the organization as well. According to Defence Industrial Daily , space debris has the capacity to travel with a speed of the bullet and reportedly resides in the area that is 2 lakh times that of earth’s total ocean volume! Imagine how much waste we have already left in space and it is still increasing day by day and mission after mission. bOne may argue that if universe is continuously expanding and if this universe if infinite then why in all do we need to remove this debris as it will get removed by itself in that infinite space but the truth is that due various forces that exist in our planetary system this debris gets stuck there itself and starts moving around it much like the way meteors and asteroids do in the asteroid belt belt of our solar system.

WAYS TO COMBAT SPACE JUNK

Reseaches are being conducted in several countries like USA to develop method to destroy debris completely. While US is looking at plasma beam and lasers as one of the possible ways , japanese are toying with the idea of using a vast magnetic net to be put up in space which will attract the waste towards it and would pull it inside the earts atmosphere and as soon as this debris will enter earth’s atmosphere it will get burned up there itself and thus soughting out the problem of disposal as well. Students from prestigious institutes like MIT who are backed by big organizations like NASA are trying to create various algorithms to calculate the rotation of objects in space therby removing them.

Space junk has now become a global cause of concern technically as well as politically. One actually need to question oneself that to what extent we are ready to exploit our universe to fulfill our desire to achieve more than before. Somewhere deep inside we need to introspect ourselves and our decisions as well. CODER is among those first few of the institutions to address  and spread aware about this issue. In order to reduce future space debris, various ideas have been proposed. There is no international treaty mandating behaviour to minimize space debris, but theThere is no international treaty mandating behaviour to minimize space debris, but the United Nations Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space (COPUOS) did publish voluntary guidelines in 2007. In 2008, the committe dicussed about international    ‘Road to Space’ guidlines that laid down various guidelines for all the space agencies to follow so as to avoid collision between two satellites or with debris. Launch vehicle operators would have to pay the cost of debris mitigation. 

SELF REMOVAL OF SPACE DEBRIS

In 2007, China destroyed one of its own old satellite systems in orbit during an anti-satellite weapon test, which the hearing attendees called as the largest known creation of space debris in history. Each piece of space junk, as well as each functioning orbital object that eventually will become junk, has a projected duration in orbit that varies from months to centuries, depending on the object’s size, shape and orbital elevation. A collision with even a tiny fragment of debris can be lethal at orbital speeds. Plans have been promoted over the years for various means of removing debris from the orbits around Earth. Although human missions as seen in the movie “Planet” is highly unlikely as it is practically , technically and biologically impossible. Satellites that retain enough propellant can power themselves into a decaying orbit. Instead of using conventional rockets , electrodynamic tether can be attached to satellite while launching it. 

REMOVAL OF DEBRIS

DUPRAS Phoneix:It is a robotic servicer spacecraft that would chase down derelict satellites and harvest still usable hardware, like a  dish antenna. The servicer attaches a module that allows the salvaged part to be used for a new mission.’ Phoenix’ is  one of the ambitious project of the United States Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency.

Clean Space One: It is a robotic janitor spacecraft that is launched into orbit from an airplane. The janitor chases down a target satellite, grapples it, and then plunges back into the Earth’s atmosphere, destroying itself along with the derelict satellite. Cleanspace One is a project of the EPFL.

Earth-based lasers: A ground-based laser could de-orbit space debris by robbing it of a bit of the momentum it needs to continue orbiting the Earth.

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