The growing concern of space debris in low Earth orbit (LEO) poses significant challenges to space activities and satellite operations. Space debris mainly comprises defunct satellites, spent rocket stages, and fragments from spacecraft collisions, posing a risk to operational satellites and human spaceflight missions.

To address this issue, global measures to mitigate space debris have been developed, including:

Space Debris Monitoring: Space agencies, such as NASA, ESA, and ROSCOSMOS, monitor and track space debris using ground-based radars and telescopes. This helps in predicting potential collisions and avoiding them by adjusting satellite trajectories.
Space Debris Mitigation Guidelines: The Inter-Agency Space Debris Coordination Committee (IADC) has established guidelines for space agencies to mitigate the creation of new debris. These guidelines include strategies such as spacecraft disposal, collision avoidance manoeuvres, and designing satellites for re-entry at the end of their operational life.
International Collaboration: Space agencies collaborate on space situational awareness and debris mitigation efforts through initiatives like the IADC and the United Nations Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space (COPUOS). These collaborations facilitate data sharing, research, and the development of best practices for space debris management.
Debris Removal Technologies: Research is ongoing into technologies for actively removing space debris from orbit. Concepts such as robotic arms, nets, harpoons, and lasers are being explored for capturing and de-orbiting defunct satellites and debris fragments.
Regulatory Frameworks: Some countries have implemented regulations to address space debris. For example, the United States requires satellite operators to conduct end-of-life disposal manoeuvres to de-orbit satellites or move them to graveyard orbits.

In the context of India, the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) has also taken steps to address space debris and promote responsible space activities:

Debris Mitigation Measures: ISRO adheres to the IADC guidelines and implements debris mitigation measures in its satellite launches. This includes designing satellites for controlled re-entry at the end of their operational life and conducting collision avoidance manoeuvres when necessary.
Innovative Solutions: ISRO has developed innovative solutions like the PSLV Orbital Experimental Module (POEM), which repurposes the spent fourth stage of the Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (PSLV) as an orbital platform for scientific experiments. This reduces the amount of space debris left in orbit after satellite launches.
Research and Development: ISRO conducts research and development on space debris mitigation technologies, including debris removal concepts and spacecraft design improvements to minimise debris generation.

By implementing these measures and collaborating with international partners, India, along with other spacefaring nations, contributes to efforts aimed at addressing the growing concern of space debris in low Earth orbit and ensuring the long-term sustainability of space activities.

Source The Hindu

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