Never miss a story

Get subscribed to our newsletter


×
(Representational image) FILE - India's Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (PSLV-C23), carrying five satellites, lifts off from the Satish Dhawan Space Centre in Sriharikota, north of the southern Indian city of Chennai, June 30, 2014. The more recent launch of the Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (PSLV) C-34 carried 17 foreign and three domestic satellites. VOA

Bengaluru, Feb 26, 2017: Buried in the flood of congratulatory messages that the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) received after its recent space feat is one discordant note raising some concern.

It is from none other than G. Madhavan Nair, the former chairman of the country’s premier space body. Nair, during whose term the agency launched the Chandrayaan mission to the Moon, feels ISRO’s latest Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (PSLV) mission potentially has some hidden dangers to its own space assets.


On February 15, a PSLV released a flock of over 100 nano- and micro-satellites of overseas customers for a fee. Of them, 88 satellites called Doves belonged to Planet, a San Francisco-based startup. All these tiny satellites, each smaller than a briefcase, were lobbed into a polar orbit 506 km above the Earth by the PSLV in a flawless mission.

Please Follow NewsGram on Facebook To Get Latest Updates!

I am somewhat concerned because the region where so many of these objects have been placed is the same where our own Earth observation satellites are, or will be, Nair told this correspondent over the phone.

The nano-satellites, Nair pointed out, have a short useful life after which they become junk that will keep floating in space for years in the same orbit with chances of colliding with ISRO’s operational satellites sharing the same space.

The debris that these nano-satellites will leave after their brief existence in space are potential source of damage to us. Safety of our satellites is more important, Nair maintained.

He cautioned that ISRO should carefully weigh a few million dollars of commercial gain from launching foreign nano-satellites into 500-km orbits against the potential harm to the present and future Earth observation satellites close to their lanes.

He also noted that in case of a future collision between the debris from any of these nano-satellites and a working satellite belonging to another country, India will have to pay for the damages. Therefore, I do not know if we should do it, he said.

Nair was referring to the Space Liability Convention that entered into force in 1972, under which launching countries should bear international responsibility for all space objects launched from their territory regardless of to whom the space object belongs.

Nair said that in his view, short-lived nano-satellites, if launched, should be put in much lower orbits — below the operational region of remote sensing satellites. Any junk formed in such low-earth orbits will descend to Earth due to atmospheric drag and pose no problem to the working satellites.

Also, this issue should be raised in the United Nations Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space in order to arrive at a designated corridor for small and nano-satellites.

ISRO is a member of Inter-Agency Space Debris Coordination Committee (IADC) which coordinates global efforts to reduce man-made and natural space debris by sharing research and identifying debris mitigation options.

While ISRO spokesman Deviprasad Karnik said his agency has no comments to offer to the concerns raised by the agency’s former chairman, Planet spokesperson Rachel Holm dismissed any danger to ISRO’s operating satellites as feared by Nair.

At Planet, we designed our concept of operations with debris mitigation in mind, the company said in an email. Our Doves fly at a self-cleaning orbit. After 3-5 years, gravity pulls our satellites down into Earth’s atmosphere where they burn up completely.

Nair’s concerns have, however, been echoed by space debris experts in different forums.

At a recent International Astronautical Congress in Toronto, Hugh Lewis, a leading space debris expert from the University of Southampton, said that since 2005, CubeSats have been involved in more than 360,000 close encounters, many of these in Sun-synchronous orbits that are popular with remote sensing and Earth science satellites.

Lewis had warned that if CubeSats continue to be launched into long-lived orbits without any means of disposing them of, they will contribute to the growing space debris hazard.

ALSO READ: Social Media Breeding Negativity and Toxicity: B-Towners

In 2014, the International Space Station had to move three times to avoid lethal chunks of space debris and, only a month ago, European Space Agency had reported that its Swarm-B satellite had a miraculous escape from space debris that came as close as 361 metres.

Experts predict that satellites — just like drones — are increasingly coming within reach of ordinary people. As the cost of getting them in orbit plummets, the risks of collisions in space will grow, says a recent report from the US National Academy of Sciences. (IANS)


Popular

Unsplash

Canadian researchers have discovered an overlooked gene that plays a major role in the development of antibodies

Canadian researchers have discovered an overlooked gene that plays a major role in the development of antibodies, which help the immune system recognize and fight viruses including SARS-CoV-2, bacteria and other causes of infectious disease. The gene -- FAM72A -- facilitates production of high-quality antibodies by enabling the effect of an enzyme called AID (for Activation-Induced Deaminase), the researchers showed.

Immunologists have known for two decades that AID is essential to produce antibodies capable of clearing infections, but the full mechanism of its effect has remained unknown. "Our findings answer the long-standing question of how AID does its work," said Alberto Martin, a professor of immunology at the University of Toronto's Temerty Faculty of Medicine. "FAM72A helps AID to promote mutations in antibody genes that are essential for the development of effective antibodies," he added.

Virus Pathogen Antibody - Genetic mutations that lead to lasting changes in DNA occur through a process called mutagenesis. | Pixabay

Keep Reading Show less
IANS

Mahanadi Coalfields Limited (MCL), a subsidiary of Coal India will set up a 50 megawatt (MW) solar power plant in Odisha's Sambalpur

Mahanadi Coalfields Limited (MCL), a subsidiary of Coal India will set up a 50 megawatt (MW) solar power plant in Odisha's Sambalpur at a total cost of Rs 301.92 crore, moving steadily towards its goal to achieve carbon neutrality by 2024. MCL has placed a turnkey order to set-up a 50 MW solar power plant with a Chennai-based firm M/s Hild Energy Ltd, which will establish this green energy project within a timeline of 10 months, the MCL said in a statement on Saturday.

This solar plant would cater to the captive power requirement of MCL. The Central PSU had successfully set-up a 2MW solar power plant in Sambalpur in 2014. The company said it has pledged a target of installing 182 MW of solar power by 2024 in order to become a net zero energy company, aligning itself to use cleaner forms of energy for coal production.

white and blue solar panel system The company said it has pledged a target of installing 182 MW of solar power by 2024. | Photo by Mariana Proença on Unsplash

Keep Reading Show less
IANS

As the nation celebrated the 114th birth anniversary of his father - renowned poet Harivansh Rai Bachchan - megastar Amitabh Bachchan remembered his dad as he penned a heartfelt note for him.

As the nation celebrated the 114th birth anniversary of his father - renowned poet Harivansh Rai Bachchan - megastar Amitabh Bachchan remembered his dad as he penned a heartfelt note for him. The actor took to his blog where he poured his heart out and also shared an unseen photo with his father. The image in question is from Big B's wedding in 1973, where the two are caught in a sweet moment as they look at each other.

Amitabh Bachchan wrote on his blog,

"My Father , my all .. November 27th his birth in the year 1907 .. Which makes it his 114th Anniversary .. He is in the heavens, with my Mother and they celebrate .. as do we , in thought word and deed .. (sic). But first."


Keep reading... Show less