(ORDO NEWS) — The problem of space debris arose already in the second half of the 20th century, after the launch of the first artificial satellites of the Earth, and since then it has only worsened.
It is believed that if we do not take action, then in a few decades space exploration can be completely forgotten – the orbit will be so clogged. Here are a few facts about space debris that are being seriously discussed in space circles.
US Air Force tracks space debris
Not all, of course – we are talking about objects with a diameter of several centimeters or more. Observation has been going on since the 1980s, and at the moment about 20 thousand objects over 10 cm and 500 thousand objects less than 10 cm are being tracked in orbit.
All this stuff is rushing around the Earth at a speed of 28 thousand km / h. Even a dried drop of paint at such speeds can damage the station or kill an astronaut.
Garbage can be burned in the atmosphere
It remains only to understand how to put it into practice. First of all, this is important for large objects, such as disabled satellites or their parts.
Using the example of the WT1190F object (a fragment of a rocket with a diameter of two meters), which independently descended from a high orbit at the level of the Moon and burned up in the atmosphere, scientists were able to observe the trajectory of the fall of large space debris from beginning to end.
Space debris moved the ISS three times in 2014
But for even the smallest movement, several days are required. Space debris is constantly monitored both from Earth and from the ISS, being one of the main threats in orbit. When the warning comes too late, the astronauts move to cover and wait out the impact.
Space debris seriously threatens artificial satellites
If space debris crashes into a satellite, it will either damage it or completely destroy it. If this happens several times, it will also affect the Earth – GPS, mobile communications and the Internet will suffer.
In the worst case, the destruction of satellites will lead to political conflict, because in our age of total paranoia, even an accident can be mistaken for a deliberate attack.
A special robot is being developed for the safety of ISS astronauts
He will go into outer space for them to negate the risk of being killed by a piece of space debris. The remote-controlled robot is currently being built by the European Space Agency.
Cubic satellites present a particular problem
So-called CubeSats have become quite popular since the 2000s and have been frequently launched into orbit. On the plus side, they are cheap and small.
Of the minuses – completely uncontrollable, which in fact translates them into the category of space debris. They haven’t crashed into anything yet, but the risk is very high.
Each collision increases the threat by an order of magnitude
So far, we have been lucky and collisions of debris with active satellites and stations have occurred extremely rarely.
But the theory of the “cascade effect” says that with each collision, the threat of a new one increases 100 times! Each destroyed satellite, in turn, turns into hundreds of pieces of space debris – projectiles rushing at great speed.
The SpaceFence project was created to better track garbage
This is a massive radar network that creates a virtual “network” over the planet. It is it that allows you to track debris about 10 centimeters in size.
Thanks to this project, so far it has been possible to successfully withdraw active satellites and the ISS in the event of a collision threat.
The cost of “cleaning up” space debris will be huge
And it does not matter, it is supposed to attract debris with the help of a space “harpoon”, a huge heavy-duty net, or shoot it down with lasers.
In any case, an incredible amount of money will be required, and this only exacerbates the problem. A mistake will cost us dearly literally.
Over time, we will simply find ourselves locked on Earth
If we never find a reliable way to get rid of space debris, of course. Launches of satellites and rockets will be impossible without accidents when they collide with debris in orbit.
And it is still unknown how much of it will eventually burn up in the atmosphere, and how much will fall on our heads.
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