700,000 Possibly Dangerous Space Debris are in Orbit, What ESA is Doing About It
Byproducts of space explorations cannot entirely be prevented. Whether it's from bits and pieces of resupply space crafts, of broken smaller satellites. The chances are, there is a lot of debris in space caused by men.
That's why the European Space Agency (ESA) is working with their worldwide counterparts to eliminate these debris which can potentially be risky for existing space projects and even to Earth.
In the official project website by ESA, the Challenge of Space Debris, and ESA said there are 700,000 debris in orbit which are bigger than one centimeter.
According to ESA, in 60 years of space explorations about 6600 satellites were launched into orbit and only 1100 are operational. What happened to the rest of them? Some were sent back home and the rest remains in orbit.
That's why ESA wanted to cleanup space debris. In a study conducted by US Space Surveillance Network, some of those debris, about 17,000 are within the low-Earth orbit (LEO). And they pose a threat to future space missions and on Earth, as well.
"In addition to the hazard in space, large debris objects that reenter Earth's atmosphere in an uncontrolled way, such as defunct satellites, rocket bodies and large fragments, can pose risks to people on the ground, because they can be too big to burn up completely" said ESA.
ESA believes in the saying 'What goes up must go down', that's why Clean Space launched in order to help the cleanup of the orbit. Luisa Innocenti, head of Clean Space said, "International regulations state that low-orbiting satellites are removed within 25 years of their mission end-of-life...Either they should end up at an altitude where atmospheric drag gradually induces reentry, or alternatively be despatched up to quieter 'graveyard orbits'."
Last year, workshops were done to initiate the cleanup drive. Currently, there's an debris removal project called e.deorbit to capture space debris and then "safely burn it up in a controlled atmospheric reentry" said the ESA Space Engineering Technology page. It will be utilized by ESA in their space cleanup mission.
This year, the project will be further discussed at the ESA Council. It is scheduled to be launched in 2023. With more and more companies aiming to launch their own piece of technology into space, space programs like the e.deorbit should also be prioritized.