What is Space Debris ? | Space Debris Removal Techniques

This article covers Space debris basics and its disadvantages.It mentions various space debris removal techniques.

Introduction : Satellites are used for various applications such as communication, navigation, obseration, scientific research and so on. They are installed in various orbits viz. LEO, MEO and GEO. Space debris are result of discarded rocket stages, defunct satellites, collissions, explosions etc. As per European Space Agency as on Dec. 2020, there are about 128 million debris fragments with 1 mm to 1 cm in size, 9 lakh fragments with 1 to 10 cm in size, 34000 fragments larger than 10 cm and so on.

What is space debris ?

Space debris are of two types viz. natural (e.g. meteoroids) and artificial. Artificial space debris are of major concern as these are result of unoperational man made satellites launched in the space. Every year hundreds of satellites are launched in the space. The number of satellites orbiting around space is increasing at rapid rate. Space debris include old and non-functional satellites, rocket bodies, disintegrated parts of satellites, collision fragments, ISS construction material etc. Space debris can be found at low altitude earth orbit (LEO) and high altitude geostationary earth orbit (GEO).

Space debris is not only wasteful but it is dangerous to operational satellites as well as space stations installed for research purpose. Moreover space debris is becoming threat to use of valuable orbits in the future.

Space Debris Removal Techniques

Following techniques are followed to clean debris from the space.
➨Bi-directional momemtum ejection technique is used in the operational satellite which pushes space debris in the earth's atmosphere and causes it to burn naturally.
➨Space garbage truck is used which pushes debris so that it may either fall on the earth or moves closer to the orbit around the earth. The debris in the low earth orbit gets decayed over time and finally fall to the earth.
➨Smaller satellites are launched in the space which grabs the space junk with jellyfish like tentacles. Later this satellite along with space debris are made to return in the earth atmosphere so that both gets destroyed by heat and friction.
➨High power pulsed lasers are used to slow down the speed of debris so that it may either re-enter in earth's atmosphere or fall into the oceans.
➨Space balloons are used to bring space junk in the atmosphere for their natural burning.
➨Space pods are used to push debris into the earth from the useful orbit.
➨The other Space Debris Removal techniques include launch of rocket with water, recycling of satellite components, robotic arm system known as sticky boom etc.


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