Wanted: Space junk busters
Their worst nightmare is of course space debris smashing an inhabited spacecraft, Â like the International Space Station or a NASA space shuttle Â killing astronauts and having orbiting flesh, organs and bonesÂ adding to the estimated 5,500 tonnesÂ of space hardware currently hurtling up to 1,500 km above our planet. At speeds of 39,000 kmph,Â debris the size of a rice grain can cause quarter-inch wide dents in spaceÂ shuttle windows, as NASA astronauts are discovering…
The space debris challenge increases with the â€œKessler Syndromeâ€, named after senior NASA debris analyst Don Kessler.Â Twenty years ago, KesslerÂ said that doubling the number of space objects in densely populated orbital altitudes, in the Low Earth Orbital region ~ an area within 2,000 km of the earthâ€™s surface ~ will cause an approximate four-foldÂ increase of collision rates.
The collision rate, according to the KesslerÂ Syndrome, gradually increases in a self-sustaining rate until every orbiting object endangers every other orbiting object. â€œAt that time, safe space flight in some orbit altitudes might become impossible,â€ says Dr Klinkrad.
Space debris can last for 10,000 years. The European Space Agency, through its tools like the Database and Information System Characterising Objects in Space, has collated data of 33,500 objects sinceÂ Sputnik-1, and a total of 7.4 million orbit records.
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