China Rocket Debris Falls In Indian Ocean

    0
    196

    In News

    Debris from the last stage of China’s Long March rocket fell into the waters of the Indian Ocean west of the Maldives. 

    Background

    • The Long March-5B Y2 rocket was carrying the Tianhe, or Heavenly Harmony, module, which is the first of three key components for the construction of China’s space station.
      • China’s space station would be second after the International Space Station.
      • Recently, Russia also announced its own International Space Station.
    • Remnants of China’s largest rocket re-entered the Earth’s atmosphere and disintegrated over the Indian Ocean. 
    • The debris now lies west of the Maldives archipelago.

    Criticisms of China

    • The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) criticised China for “failing to meet responsible standards regarding their space debris”.
    • Uncertainty over the rocket’s orbital decay and China’s failure to issue stronger reassurances in the run-up to the re-entry are causes of concern.
    • Last year also, another Long March rocket of the same 5B variant had crashed on Ivory Coast created a lot of debris.

    Space Debris

    • Most Space debris comprises human-generated objects, such as pieces of spacecraft, tiny flecks of paint from a spacecraft, parts of rockets, satellites that are no longer working, or explosions of objects in orbit flying around in space at high speeds.
    • Most “space junk” is moving very fast and can reach speeds of 18,000 miles per hour, almost seven times faster than a bullet. 

    Ways to clean Space Debris

    • To tackle this problem, several companies around the world have come up with novel solutions:
    • Removing dead satellites from orbit and dragging them back into the atmosphere, where they will burn up. To do this-
    • Use a harpoon to grab a satellite; 
    • catching it in a huge net;
    • using magnets to grab it;
    • firing lasers to heat up the satellite; 
    • execute a collision avoidance mnoeuvre;
    • increasing its atmospheric drag so that it falls out of orbit.
    • However, these methods are only useful for large satellites orbiting Earth. There isn’t a way to pick up smaller pieces of debris such as bits of paint and metal.
    • There are international guidelines for getting rid of old satellites and rockets from the Inter-Agency Space Debris Coordination Committee (IADC). 
    • By making sure that satellites are removed from orbit in a reasonable amount of time once they are no longer active, we can mitigate the problem of space junk in the future.

    Challenges in Space Debris Removal

    • Unfortunately, there is an explosion risk in removing more dangerous objects.
    • The issue of property rights; one can’t grab a satellite or rocket that belongs to another country without their permission. 
    • It is hard to eliminate space debris as there are huge chances of creating more junk while doing it.
    • Most satellite operators require hours or days to plan and execute a collision-avoidance manoeuvre

    Way Forward

    • Spacefaring nations must minimize the risks to people and property on Earth of re-entries of space objects and maximize transparency regarding those operations.
    • It is critical that all spacefaring nations and commercial entities act responsibly and transparently in space to ensure the safety, stability, security and long-term sustainability of outer space activities.
    • The high-accuracy assessment and prediction tools are essential for reducing risk to current systems and future launches.
    • Space Debris Monitoring and Space Traffic Management
      • Space traffic management is a crucial area that requires attention since the satellites in orbit can come in the way of each other
      • Thus, Space Debris management and monitoring play a crucial role as many countries are becoming players. 
      • Space debris monitoring removal has an estimated market revenue of around 2.7 billion dollars in the 2020s.
    • Space junk is no one countries’ responsibility, but the responsibility of every spacefaring country
    • The problem of managing space debris is both an international challenge and an opportunity to preserve the space environment for future space exploration missions.

    Kessler Syndrome

    • This is an idea proposed by NASA scientist Donald Kessler in 1978. 
    • It states that if there was too much space junk in orbit, it could result in a chain reaction where more and more objects collide and create new space junk in the process, to the point where Earth’s orbit becomes unusable.
    • It is also known as “collisional cascading”.
    • This cascade of collisions first came to NASA’s attention in the 1970s when derelict Delta rockets left in orbit began to explode creating shrapnel clouds.
    • Kessler proposed it would take 30 to 40 years for such a threshold to be reached and today, some experts think we are already at critical mass in low-Earth orbit at about 560 to 620 miles (900 to 1,000 kilometres).

    How can Kessler Syndrome be avoided?

    • The successful ‘passivation’ of all spacecraft, which would limit on-orbit breakups, and the widespread, i.e. more than 90%, adoption of effective disposal strategies at the end of missions would contribute to containing the growth of space debris.
    • Clean Space by cutting debris production from future space missions.
    • Then an urgent need to reduce the total mass of current debris, such as the robotic salvage of derelict satellites.

    Source: TH