There is an issue.
We have been sending garbage into space ever since Sputnik 1 was launched in 1957. everything, including small CubeSats to huge communication satellites and space stations. We also add items like rocket components and paint splatter to the orbital pile with each launch.
Currently, there are at least 130 million millimeter-sized objects in orbit around the Earth and over a million ones larger than a centimeter. The most of it won’t deorbit anytime soon.
These days, orbits are so crowded that crewed missions like the International Space Station frequently need to change their orbits to avoid collisions. There have been a number of debris-related strikes on satellites, which naturally produces more debris.
If we continue with our present launch initiatives, collisions will eventually become frequent, resulting in the Kessler cascade. It is difficult to survive in orbit because collisions produce debris, and garbage breeds collisions.
Kessler cascades have been depicted in a number of fictional works, including the manga Planetes and the film Gravity.
The cascade is depicted in Gravity as occurring abruptly, starting mere hours after the Russians destroy a test satellite. The process will actually be gradual. We are aware that if we don’t alter our behavior, similar to global warming, there will be no turning back. Simply put, we’re not sure where that dividing line is.
Thankfully, a number of initiatives are working to find solutions to this issue, one of which is a partnership between the European Space Agency and a Swiss business called ClearSpace.
The purpose of ClearSpace is to capture and deorbit the largest and most hazardous trash in order to forcibly remove it from the atmosphere. While smaller debris will still be an issue, it would be fantastic if we could get rid of the larger pieces.
The ESA now intends to launch a ClearSpace satellite as a test mission in 2026. The Vega Secondary Payload Adapter (Vespa) upper-stage component, which was a part of a launch in 2013, will be the target. It weighs about 100 kilograms and measures about 2 meters in length.
The component doesn’t offer any significant risks, but it is one solid piece, about the same size and mass as satellites that are more risky.
or so we believed.
The 18th Space Defense Squadron of the United States has just discovered several new objects orbiting close to the adapter that weren’t there previously.
The impact of some small, untracked debris particles traveling at high speed is most likely what produced the additional debris. The fresh debris has made what was supposed to be a straightforward job a little more challenging.
The pilot mission is proceeding as planned because the ClearSpace team does not anticipate that the new items will present a significant issue. But these recent findings highlight the significance of missions like ClearSpace.
Collisions are becoming more common, and the time for solutions is growing shorter.
You can learn more about the ClearSpace mission by checking out their website.