Tuesday June 18, 2019
Home Science & Technology Decades&#8217...

Decades’ worth of man-made junk is cluttering up Earth’s orbit, posing a threat to Spaceflight and Satellites

0
//
FILE - A piece of metal, presumably from doomed US rocket SpaceX Falcon, recovered from the sea off the Isles of Scilly in Britain, is seen in this handout provided to Reuters on Nov. 27, 2015. VOA

Decades’ worth of man-made junk is cluttering up Earth’s orbit, posing a threat to spaceflight and the satellites we rely on for weather reports, air travel and global communications.

More than 750,000 fragments larger than a centimeter are already thought to orbit Earth, and each one could badly damage or even destroy a satellite.

NewsGram brings to you current foreign news from all over the world.

Last year, a tiny piece of debris punched a gaping hole in the solar panel of Copernicus Sentinel-1A, an observation satellite operated by the European Space Agency, or ESA. A solar array brought back from the Hubble Telescope in 1993 showed hundreds of tiny holes caused by dust-sized debris.

Experts meeting in Germany this week said the problem could get worse as private companies such as SpaceX, Google and Arlington, Virginia-based OneWeb send a flurry of new satellites into space over the coming years. They said steps should be taken to reduce space debris.

Getting all national space agencies and private companies to comply with international guidelines designed to prevent further junk in orbit would be a first step. At the moment those rules — which can be costly to implement — aren’t legally binding.

NewsGram brings to you top news around the world today.

ESA’s director-general, Jan Woerner, told The Associated Press on Friday that so-called mega-constellations planned by private companies should have a maximum orbital lifetime of 25 years. After that, the satellite constellations would need to move out of the way, either by going into a so-called `graveyard orbit’ or returning to Earth.

That’s because dead satellites pose a double danger: they can collide with other spacecraft or be hit by debris themselves, potentially breaking up into tiny pieces that become a hazard in their own right.

The nightmare scenario would be an ever-growing cascade of collisions resulting in what’s called a Kessler syndrome — named after the NASA scientist who first warned about it four decades ago — that could render near-Earth orbits unusable to future generations.

Check out NewsGram for latest international news updates.

“Without satellites, you don’t have weather reports, live broadcasts from the other side of the planet, stock market, air travel, online shopping, sat-nav in your car,” Rolf Densing, ESA’s director of operations, said. “You might as well move into a museum if all the satellites are switched off.”

Even if future launches adhere to the guidelines, though, there’s the question of what to do with all of the debris already in orbit.

“We have to clean the vacuum, which means we need a vacuum cleaner,” Woerner said.

Just how such a device would work is still unclear. Proposals include garbage-cleaning spacecraft armed with harpoons, nets, robotic arms and even lasers to fry really small bits of debris.

Luisa Innocenti, the head of ESA’s “clean space” initiative, said a mission is already in the works to bring down a very large piece of debris.

“It’s a very complex operation because nobody wants to fail,” she said. “Nobody wants to hit the debris and create another cloud of debris.” (VOA)

Next Story

Amazon Working to Bring Inclusive Internet with 3,236 Satellites

Social networking giant Facebook is also developing an Internet satellite of its own, the report noted

0
Google , US, Alexa, Amazon, Drones, e-commerce
The logo of Amazon, online retailer is seen at the company logistics center in Lauwin-Planque, France. VOA

In a bid to provide Internet to the “unserved and underserved communities around the world”, Amazon is working to launch a constellation of 3,236 satellites into low-Earth orbit.

The project “Kuiper” will consist of 784 satellites at an altitude of 367 miles from the earth, 1,296 satellites at 379 miles and 1,156 satellites at 391 miles — facilitating Internet availability to over 95 per cent of the earth’s total population.

“Project ‘Kuiper’ will provide low-latency, high-speed broadband connectivity to unserved and underserved communities around the world,” The Verge quoted an Amazon spokesperson as saying on Friday.

“This is a long-term project that envisions serving tens of millions of people who lack basic access to broadband Internet.”

Moving forward with the initiative, the project has already filed with the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) — the international organisation in charge of coordinating satellite orbits.

Even though Amazon Chief Executive Officer Jeff Bezos has his own spaceflight company called “Blue Origin”, the company is considering all other options as well.

Amazon logo. Wikimedia

Details on whether the company intends to build its own satellites or buy them from a third party remain unclear as of now.

“There’s no time-frame for when Amazon’s satellites might be sent into orbit, but it will need to receive the Federal Communications Commission’s (FCC) approval before it can do so,” the report added.

Also Read- LG Says Q1 Operating Profits May Decline Over 18%

Apart from Amazon, other tech majors have also lately been working with satellites.

Elon Musk-owned SpaceX has plans to launch as many as 12,000 satellites as part of its “Starlink” constellation and London-based global communications company “OneWeb” wants to launch 650 satellites to implement new space-based Internet communication systems.

Social networking giant Facebook is also developing an Internet satellite of its own, the report noted. (IANS)