How Can We Solve The Problem Of Space Junk?
Editorials News | Apr-27-2022
It's so sad how much a modern world relies on satellites with commercial space companies making rocket launches more affordable by the day, and nanotechnology giving us cubes sats you can hold in your hand, we are getting into the golden age of satellite technology. But just as we gain a new benefit with each new object we place in low Earth orbit we are also adding to the odds of a collision. This danger is called the "Kessler Syndrome" and it was highlighted in the film "Gravity". When objects traveling at 17,500 miles per hour collide bad things happen mainly cascading effect of more and more collisions creating more and more "Space Junk" or "Space Debris".
This is a threat to the crew of the International Space Station (ISS), but if it starts to take out too many satellites, it could also significantly threaten our way of life down here on earth. And if it gets really out of control, it could eventually make space launches completely impossible. That means no Mars mission. Currently, more than 2,000 satellites are orbiting the planet, and an estimated 5,00,000 pieces of space junk ranging in size from fingernails up to the size of bowling balls.
There's a lot of room in space though and the current debris cloud isn't very dense but there's already enough stuff hurtling around that the (ISS) has to change course once a month as its crew shelter in the "Soyuz Reentry Capsule" until the threat of Collision passes. These lethal pieces of iron metal are already destroying one satellite per year, which is why this isn't some abstract problem of the future humanity is facing now. So, it's good news then that a team of mechanical engineers in Russia understands the urgency of the moment and has developed a debris prevention system that's ready for testing. This braking system is a delicate film 20 times thinner than human hair, and its coated with an even thinner layer of aluminum. During Orbit, it will unfold from within the satellite to slow it down. It's a common misconception that space is an airless vacuum as their actually a small amount of air of hundred miles above the earth. But for a tiny satellite that's stopped working it would take years for this drag to slow it down enough to enter our atmosphere and burn up.
While some people are developing an improved system to track all that space debris, others are holding out host for some future fix like using lasers to de-orbit or move debris. But that's not the best we can do to begin solving this problem now, which is what makes this group of unfunded enthusiasts so inspiring.
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