Galactic debris could imperil communication and time synchronization on Earth

When satellites were created, a majority of them were built without consideration of its end life or retirement. There was never a plan on how to dispose of them properly when the time comes for them to get junked. Though, some like the Hubble Space Telescope, has a built in mechanism designed to allow a future robot spacecraft attach itself to guide the scope for secure disposal, that is to be burned-up in the atmosphere of Earth after its functioning life ends, countless others don’t have that luxury.

The Mercury probe is another exception since it won’t be floating around in space anymore. It was designed to crash to the surface of planet Mercury, which it did already. But wew can’t do this all the time. We don’t know what lifeforms we are destroying in doing it.

Without proper disposal of defunct satellites, they become space debris, or appropriately space hazards,  relics of old spacecrafts and rockets orbiting Earth at a speed of thousands of miles per hour. These fragments travel exceedingly fast that a coin-sized chunk can pack enough energy to incapacitate a whole satellite. And there are more than 100,000 pieces of this size or larger orbiting Earth’s atmosphere at the moment. Bigger debris like the Progress unmanned cargo module, which the Russian Space Agency controller missions lost control of, orbits lower in , which will eventually burns up in the Earth’s atmosphere.

About 10% of those wreckage which are considerable enough to immobilize a satellite,  can be traced from the ground. In fact, the Hubble and Solar Maximum Mission (SMM) satellites have coin-sized puncture holes in them,  caused by flying debris. Potential risks in the next few years to come will include damaging collisions.

To prevent more space debris in the future, the soft capture mechanism was installed.   Engineers around the world are always on the lookout in creating ways to  limit the number of flying debris which orbit Earth. If this problem persists, a number of our useful orbit zones will become too congested with space junks which could prove detrimental to the safety of other useful satellites

If left unchecked, there may be enough debris in a given orbit to collide with each other and careen out of control. This is called the Kessler syndrome, as depicted somewhat exaggeratedly in the film Gravity.

Considering the extent by which we depend on satellites, for our communication, GPS, time synchronization, which is relied upon by international banking, it is vital we prevent near-Earth space from being overcrowded with these scaps. And one of the essential phases necessary to achieve this is the removal of large, non-operational satellites that may be the source of chunks of debris.





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