Russia has recently confirmed to carry out a direct-ascending anti-satellite missile operation that destroyed Cosmos 1408, a more than 2-ton Tselina-D espionage satellite placed into orbit in 1982.
According to some estimates, the old spacecraft was smashed on Nov. 15, resulting in a storm cloud of space debris with 1,500 bits large enough to be tracked.
However, many more space debris particles were undoubtedly generated by the collision that was too small to be detected from the ground. Who knows how much debris from Russia's anti-satellite (ASAT) test is floating about in the atmosphere?
In the days, weeks, months, and years ahead, certain spacecraft may be impacted by Cosmos 1408 fragments. Spacecraft operators may run across perplexing faults and snafus that might very well be the result of interactions with ASAT-produced oddities.
Within the space community, what to do about orbital debris is now a daily issue of discussion and worry. There is a lot of "debris cleansing" concepts floating around. Is it, however, all too little, too late at the end of the day?
There's also the Kessler Syndrome to think about, which is a debris cascade caused by in-orbit collisions that may already be occurring.
Was the Russian ASAT test a wake-up call that served as a tipping point for everyone to come on board with dealing with space waste? Space.com asked leading specialists to comment on the concerning status of space debris.
"Unfortunately," said Moriba Jah, a space debris expert at the University of Texas at Austin, "I don't think this occurrence will force people into action." "It raises the bar; it's still astonishing that this occurred; there's no proof that there would be any ramifications... no penalties that would effectively prohibit anyone from doing this in the future; this is a tragic incident."
How do we persuade humanity to embrace space stewardship as if our lives depended on it, Jah wonders? With a growing number of commerce-producing satellite networks, space debris will undoubtedly become a long-term, vexing problem.
"Space is a global resource," says US Space Commission Commissioner Nathan Simington. In a statement, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) stated. "However, we do know at least one thing: orbital debris fields represent an existential danger," making space exploration more complicated.
"No one owns space, and no one should make it harder to use on purpose," Simington added. "I join my colleagues from throughout the US government in denouncing Russia's reckless and debris-producing destruction of a satellite."
We did not create the orbital debris problem overnight, and we will not repair it overnight, either, according to T.S. Kelso of CelesTrak, a top space debris specialist.
"Like any other environmental issue, addressing the problem will need all of us working together devotedly; we should not be immobilized by indecision in our search for the right answer," Kelso told Space.com.
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