DEBRIS-FREE SPACE MISSIONS (Syllabus: GS Paper 3 – Sci and Tech)

News-CRUX-10     17th April 2024        
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Context: Recently, ISRO Chairman S Somanath announced India's goal of achieving debris-free space missions by 2030.


Debris-Free Space Missions

  • About: India is committed to ensuring debris-free space missions as part of its broader initiative for sustainable space exploration.
  • Targeted Timeline: The initiative sets a clear goal of achieving debris-free space missions by all Indian space actors, both governmental and non-governmental, by the year 2030.
  • Global Encouragement: India extends its encouragement to all state space actors worldwide, urging them to adopt similar measures for the long-term sustainability of outer space.
  • Current Space Assets: Presently, India has 54 spacecraft operational in orbit, alongside non-functional objects, highlighting the necessity for responsible space management.

Space Debris

  • About: Space junk or debris consist of spent rocket stages, dead satellites, fragments of space objects and debris resulting from Anti-satellite (ASAT) System (ASAT).
  • Risks: These particles, which are hurtling through Low Earth Orbit (LEO) at an average speed of 27,000 kph, pose a very real hazard to satellites because even collisions involving centimetre-sized fragments can be fatal.
  • Sources: All space junk is the result of us launching objects from Earth, and it remains in orbit until it re-enters the atmosphere.
  • Rare collisions: A Chinese satellite broke up in March 2021 after a collision. Before that, the last satellite to collide and be destroyed by space junk was in 2009.

Initiatives related to Space debris

  • Space Liability Convention (1972): The treaty says that a launching State shall be absolutely liable to pay compensation for damage caused by its space objects on the surface of the earth or to aircraft, and liable for damage due to its faults in space.
  • JAXA (Japan’s Aerospace Exploration Agency) initiative: JAXA and Astroscale are undertaking a 6 month demonstration project for the first-ever space debris removal mission.
  • Clearspace-1 (European Space Agency): which is scheduled to launch in 2025, will be the first space mission to eliminate debris from orbit.
  • Project NETRA: is an initiative by the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) which is an early warning system in space to detect debris and hazards to the Indian satellites.
  • Currently, India gets its information about the space debris from North American Aerospace Defence Command (NORAD), which is an initiative by the U.S. and Canada.
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