Russia shot down a Soviet-era satellite in a weapons test on Monday More than 1,500 trackable ruins Space. This is the obligatory astronaut International Space Station for shelter For about two hours Two spaceships Which could send them back to Earth in the event of an impending conflict. Although the ISS seems clear at the moment, experts say the situation is still dangerous. Satellite operators will probably have to navigate around this new cloud of space junk for years and perhaps decades.
Indeed, the total amount of Russia’s latest missile tests could increase Space garbageAs much as rockets and satellite fragments dropped into Earth orbit 10 percent. These shards are spinning at incredibly fast speeds and there is a risk of hitting active satellites that power critical technologies, such as GPS navigation and weather forecast. This type of space debris is actually so dangerous that national security officials are concerned that it could be used as a weapon. Future space war. In fact, the State Department has already said that Monday’s missile test proves that Russia is willing to create debris that threatens the security of all countries operating in low-Earth orbit and even threatens to disrupt peace in space.
These risks only add to the concern that we are far from solving the space waste problem, especially when it comes to private companies and foreign governments. Thousands of new satellites in orbit – Inevitably creates more space junk.
Monday’s events, however, were more politically filled than your average space debris incident. The Russian government launched a so-called Satellite test (ASAT), which, as the name implies, is designed to destroy satellites in orbit. Launched from a site Hundreds of miles north of Moscow, Missile hit Non-operational Russian spy satellite Known as Cosmos-1408 which has been orbiting the Earth since 1982. The satellite is now made up of thousands of pieces that are currently orbiting the earth at a speed of about 17,000 miles per hour, passing through the International Space Station every 90 minutes. Although astronauts no longer need shelter, the threat of ISS or other satellites has not gone away.
“I am outraged at this irresponsible and unstable move.” NASA Administrator Bill Nelson Said in a statement. “With a long and grounded history of human spaceflight, it is unthinkable that Russia would endanger not only the American and international partner astronauts on the ISS, but also their own astronauts.” Nelson added that Russia’s actions were “reckless and dangerous” and also harmed people on China’s Tiangong space station.
Although Russia has admitted to destroying a satellite in recent tests, its defense ministry said Emphasize the facts The ISS was not put at risk.
Russia is one of them Four countriesCountries including India, United States and China to launch their own satellites Uses satellite missiles. This trend is alarming because governments, including the ASAT system, can use technology to attack satellites of other countries, turning space into a battlefield. But even if countries only target their own space objects, Russia’s missile tests show how governments can use anti-satellite missiles to create debris that endangers every country, organization or person operating in orbit. And again, these would mean that you have to spend for these processes. The ISS had to do just that last week Adjust its height About a mile from the spacecraft that China shot down in 2007 to avoid hitting the space debris.
The space junk problem is also getting bigger. At the moment, there are more than 100 million space trash Larger than one millimeter Orbiting the earth according to NASA. And as of May, the Department of Defense Tracked More than 27,000 large pieces of orbital debris, but even small pieces can still pose a huge hazard. Other satellites and space stations Because of the incredibly high speeds that they travel.
“I don’t think you can exaggerate the danger of space debris at this point,” Wendy Whitman Cobb, a professor at the U.S. Air Force School of Air and Space Studies, told Record. “The more you create debris, the more likely it is that the debris will hit other things and create more debris.”
What makes the space junk problem so difficult is that no one has taken responsibility for it. According to Space dealRussia is still technically the owner of all the satellite fragments created by its Monday missile test, according to International Space Law, the countries own whatever objects they send into space. There is no global consensus on what constitutes punishment The space should be made junk, And it is still difficult to track and blame various debris for space operations in different countries.
There are government agencies and private aerospace companies Developing technology Space to remove junk, like the net Can catch debris in orbit And Device Which will push the satellite into the atmosphere and detach it. However, there are concerns that governments may use the same equipment to launch satellites from other countries. At the same time, the cost of creating space debris – and removing it – is rarely associated with the decision to launch a vehicle or satellite into space.
“In many ways, this is the same kind of problem, an environmental problem that we are dealing with in many, many different forms in the world,” said Akhil Rao. An economist from Middlebury Who has studied the ruins of space, says Recode. “We’ve fought the fall of fisheries, we’ve fought atmospheric pollution, [and] We have fought ozone depletion. ”
Right now, the best way for us to reduce the risk of orbital debris is to not create space junk in the first place. This could happen through better international cooperation or by creating new economic incentives for non-governmental organizations, but the sooner the better. Although we are usually able to navigate around pre-existing space junk, it will become more difficult as more debris is created. And if we do not come up with a solution in time, we could end up in a situation where the low-Earth orbit is so full of space debris that it is impassable.