Opportunities in Space Sustainability

The growing population of space debris in low earth and geostationary orbit is a major concern for the future of space exploration and could have potentially catastrophic consequences for humans on earth. Leading world powers have shown their tactical abilities in space warfare by precisely eliminating spacecrafts orbiting earth. Today, the consequence of these events combined with other normal space activities have generated more than 20’000 tracked debris in our orbit. Any of these debris could cause critical damage to active spacecrafts and generate even more scrap if a collision were to occur. Along with dangerous space trash cluttering precious orbits around earth, the rising amount of satellites is equally fostering increased risk. Sometimes satellites may fail to work as expected, high energy systems like tanks and batteries may explode. Eventually a satellite becomes old and unfit for service. Recent events prove that the risk is real and something must be done about it:

  • January 29th 2020 : The Infrared Astronomical Satellite (IRAS) and the Gravity Gradient Stabilisation Experiment (GGSE-4), two derelict satellites, pass each other at an alarming distance of 47 meters according to LeoLabs’ calculations. No debris were identified after the pass, but the event was a warning regarding the risk of leaving uncontrollable objects in orbit.
  • February 25th 2020: Spaceway 1, a satellite built by Boeing and operated by DirectTV was authorised to execute a manoeuvre to enter a graveyard orbit 300km above its geostationary path. A thermal anomaly damaged the batteries threatening the elements to explode and litter a very valuable region of space.