Space Debris Problem Worsening, No Easy Answers in Sight

Wanted: Space junk busters
The Statesman

Their worst nightmare is of course space debris smashing an inhabited spacecraft,  like the International Space Station or a NASA space shuttle  killing astronauts and having orbiting flesh, organs and bones adding to the estimated 5,500 tonnes of space hardware currently hurtling up to 1,500 km above our planet. At speeds of 39,000 kmph, debris the size of a rice grain can cause quarter-inch wide dents in space shuttle windows, as NASA astronauts are discovering…

The space debris challenge increases with the “Kessler Syndrome”, named after senior NASA debris analyst Don Kessler. Twenty years ago, Kessler 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 earth’s surface ~ will cause an approximate four-fold increase of collision rates.

The collision rate, according to the Kessler Syndrome, gradually increases in a self-sustaining rate until every orbiting object endangers every other orbiting object. “At that time, safe space flight in some orbit altitudes might become impossible,” 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 since Sputnik-1, and a total of 7.4 million orbit records.

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