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SIMPLIFIER: DEBRIS MANAGEMENT IN SPACE – ISRO’S STRATEGY



  May 23, 2024

SIMPLIFIER: DEBRIS MANAGEMENT IN SPACE – ISRO’S STRATEGY



1. What is space debris and its sources?

Space debris encompasses non-functional objects left in space, including defunct satellites, spent rocket stages, and smaller fragments like metal and paint flakes. These objects, even as small as a paint flake, can damage operational satellites due to their high velocities—approximately 10 kilometers per second.

2. Why is managing space debris critical?

With over 1 million pieces of debris larger than a centimeter and 30,000 larger than 10 centimeters in low-Earth orbit, the risk of collisions is significant. Such collisions can amplify debris fields and jeopardize future space missions by damaging or destroying satellites and other spacecraft.

3. What are the risks associated with space debris?

Collisions in space can lead to cascading break-ups, creating thousands of new debris pieces. Additionally, uncontrolled re-entries can pose risks to Earth, as evidenced by incidents like the battery pack that struck a home in Florida after surviving re-entry.

4. How is space debris currently managed?

Agencies perform debris avoidance maneuvers and re-entry burn-up exercises for spent spacecraft to minimize debris creation. Technologies to track and predict debris movement are crucial for these operations.

5. What is ISRO’s approach to debris management?

ISRO’s Debris-Free Space Missions (DFSM) initiative aims for zero debris impact by 2030. This includes selecting clean orbits, budgeting fuel for post-mission disposal, and precisely controlling re-entry trajectories. ISRO’s recent success with the XPoSat mission, which re-entered without leaving debris, exemplifies this approach.

6. What international efforts are underway to regulate space debris?

While there are no binding global laws, international guidelines and national regulations exist, like the UN’s Space Debris Mitigation Guidelines and ESA’s Zero Debris Charter. Efforts also include the creation of debris tracking catalogs by entities such as the EU SST and initiatives like ISRO’s NETRA for space situational awareness.

7. What future strategies are proposed for debris mitigation?

Future strategies involve international collaboration to establish more robust legal frameworks and enhance debris tracking and management capabilities. Increasing the reliability of debris avoidance maneuvers and improving the design and decommissioning of spacecraft are also critical.

These Simplifiers provide an in-depth understanding of the challenges and strategies related to managing space debris, highlighting the urgency of global cooperation and innovative solutions to ensure the long-term sustainability of space activities.



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