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Space Pollution and India’s Remedies



  Feb 20, 2024

Space Pollution and India’s Remedies



What is Space Pollution and its Causes?

Space pollution refers to the presence of defunct satellites, spent rocket stages, and fragments from disintegration or collisions, collectively known as space debris. Causes include satellite collisions, anti-satellite tests by countries like China, the US, India, and Russia, and the abandonment of old satellites and rocket stages in orbit.

How Serious is the Issue of Space Pollution?

The issue is critical, with over 27,000 cataloged objects and millions of smaller, uncataloged pieces posing dangers to operational satellites, space stations, and human spaceflights. Such congestion increases the risk of collisions, potentially making some orbits unusable and threatening the sustainable use of outer space.

What Are the Consequences of Space Debris Collisions?

Collisions can damage or destroy operational satellites and spacecraft, including the International Space Station (ISS), leading to a loss of critical services like communication, weather monitoring, and navigation. It also increases the risk of the Kessler Syndrome, a cascade of collisions rendering space activities unsustainable.

What Measures Has India Taken to Mitigate Space Pollution?

ISRO’s “Swachh Antriksh Abhiyan” includes initiatives like the unique orbit-lowering experiment to reduce the lifespan of spent rocket stages and the safe deorbiting of defunct satellites. These efforts aim to minimize India’s contribution to space debris and promote the safe and sustainable use of space.

How Did Space Pollution Affect ISRO’s Rocket Launch?

Space congestion above Sriharikota delayed the launch of India’s PSLV rocket by one minute due to space conjunction in the densely packed 500 km plus orbit. This incident highlights the growing challenges of navigating space traffic and ensuring safe launch windows.

What is India’s Approach to Space Situational Awareness?

India, through ISRO’s IS4OM, monitors space objects and their proximity to Indian assets to prevent collisions. This involves analyzing data for close approaches and executing Collision Avoidance Maneuvers (CAM) when necessary, ensuring the protection of India’s space assets.

How is India Contributing to Global Space Debris?

India has contributed 217 space objects, which is about 0.8% of global space debris. Despite conducting an anti-satellite test in 2019, India ensured the debris created was in a low orbit, minimizing long-term pollution and demonstrating responsible space behavior.

What Future Challenges Does Space Pollution Pose?

The massive web of small satellite constellations, like SpaceX’s Starlink, poses a significant challenge by increasing the density of objects in orbit. This raises the risk of collisions and the Kessler Syndrome, potentially making space inaccessible for future generations.

How is India Addressing the Strategic Implications of Space Pollution?

India’s space situational awareness activities, as part of ISRO’s IS4OM initiative, have strategic implications in identifying potential threats, including other operational spacecraft with suspicious motives, ensuring national security, and protecting India’s economic interests in space.


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