Rising Population of Space Debris increases Potential Danger to All Space Vehicles

Rising Population of Space Debris increases Potential Danger to All Space Vehicles

The track of over 500,000 pieces of debris, or ‘space junk’, has been noted as they orbit the Earth. Travelling at speeds up to 17,500 mph, they are fast enough for a relatively small part of orbital debris to harm a satellite or a spacecraft.

With the increase in the population of space debris, the possible danger to all space vehicles also increases, mainly to the International Space Station, space shuttles and other spacecraft that have humans aboard.

The US space agency NASA has taken the threat of collisions with space debris quite seriously. It has come up with a long-standing set of guidelines on how each potential collision threat can be dealt with.

The guidelines set by the agency belong to a bigger body of decision-making aids called flight rules. They specify when the likely proximity of a debris part increases the collision possibility enough, requiring evasive action or other precautions to ensure the crew safety.

Space debris includes both natural (meteoroid) and artificial (man-made) particles. Meteoroids are the particles that are present in orbit around the sun, whereas most of the artificial debris is in orbit around the Earth. Thus the latter is more usually referred to as orbital debris.

Orbital debris is defined as any man-made object present in the Earth’s orbit, which don’t serve a useful function anymore. The nonfunctional spacecraft, mission-related debris, abandoned launch vehicle stages, and fragmentation debris belong to orbital debris. There are over 20,000 pieces of debris bigger than a softball that orbit the Earth.


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