Op-ed | Space debris is more than a nuisance; it’s a borderline violation of international agreement
Despite all the discussion about orbital debris, there hasn’t been much analysis of whether established rules and agreements are being violated by spacefaring countries that create the debris.
RemoveDebris, a space-junk-wrangling spacecraft once slated to hitch a ride to the International Space Station with SpaceX in June, won’t launch until the end of 2017 or early 2018 to allow additional NASA safety reviews, according to the European project’s manager.
As the amount of debris in low Earth orbit continues to increase, experts at a recent conference called for both improved efforts to track debris as well as national legislation to mitigate that growth.
Launchspace Technologies Corp. proposes sending platforms as large as football fields into low Earth orbit to sweep up space debris. The platforms also would be equipped with sensors to help U.S. government agencies detect and track orbiting satellites and debris.
Commercial firms are developing models, simulations, algorithms and proposing new sensors to help the government improve its ability to tackle the problems of adversaries and orbital debris threatening U.S. satellites.
Since we first started placing objects into space there have been 11 known low Earth orbit collisions, and three known collisions at geostationary orbit. Think of it: 135 space shuttle flights, all of the Apollo, Gemini and Mercury flights, hundreds of telecommunications satellites, 1,300 functioning satellites on orbit today, half a million total objects in space larger than a marble, and fewer than 15 known collisions. Why do people worry?
The aspiring global broadband services provider is saying all the right things as it seeks to allay concerns that its planned 720-satellite constellation in low Earth orbit will exacerbate a growing debris problem there.
Space is becoming “congested, contested and competitive,” as the 2011 National Security Space Strategy report puts it. The time has come for responsible leadership within our industry and government to jointly develop strategies and policies to ensure our satellite launches and operations are conducted within a safe orbital environment.
Canada could play a prominent role in a deorbiting mission for the European Envisat Earth observation satellite, with robotic arm technology the most feasible method for such a job.
Measuring approximately 10 centimeters on a side and weighing around 1 kilogram, cubesats have gained popularity among small companies, universities and emerging countries. As cubesats’ use continues to grow, debris mitigation and avoidance regulations are also becoming progressively restrictive in order to avoid a degradation of space use among space industry operators.
Before founding Astroscale, Nobu Okada worked for Japan’s Ministry of Finance, BainCapital and McKinsey & Co. Now the Space Camp alumnus plans to launch a mission in 2017 to demonstrate technology to clean up orbital debris.
Regarding the recent article on guidelines for the disposal of cubesats [“1 in 5 Cubesats Violates International Orbit Disposal Guidelines”] almost no codes of conduct, guidelines, regulations or laws are stated in a manner that is measurable, verifiable, or enforceable. A guideline is a not a law or regulation. No operator can violate a guideline.
One of every five cubesats launched between 2003 and 2014 is in violation of international guidelines calling for satellites to deorbit – by force of nature or their on-board systems – within 25 years of retirement, NASA sai
The U.S. Air Force has seven aging Defense Meteorological Satellite Program (DMSP) spacecraft in orbit that are susceptible to the kind of explosive battery rupture that destroyed the 20-year-old DMSP-F13 in February, producing more than 100 trackable pieces of orbital debris.
The projected increase in the launch of small satellites, particularly cubesats, has raised new concerns about the growth of orbital debris, despite statements by ventures developing such satellites that they will be responsible citizens in low Earth orbit.