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How space junk endangers technology

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One of the largest human dumps is on our heads and is invisible to the naked eye. Six decades of Space Racing have left thousands of tons of scrap in orbit that threaten communication systems on our planet, warns the United Nations.

“As that increases the number of actors and objects launched into space, the problem is becoming a major concern for the international community”, explains to Efe Simonetta Di Pippo, director, United Nations Office for Outer Space (Unoosa).

The rest is useless and classified as space junk. A huge problem is debris from collisions between satellites or fuselages of rocket debris and other orbiting artifacts.

A growing problem

And the situation gets worse because it’s a chain effect, the more objects in orbit, the more likely there are new collisions and to create more junk adrift.

The ESA estimates that there are about 750,000 objects over 1 centimeter useless orbiting at an enormous speed – 56,000 kilometers per hour-and whose impact on a satellite or space station can cause serious damage.

At the moment there are no technical solutions to this problem and the only measure is to prevent the creation of New scrap metal.

In addition, garbage is expected to increase, because the space race continues to develop and, above all, because a new generation of small, low-cost satellites have begun to invade space.

Elon Musk, founder of Tesla electric car company, and Jeff Bezos, owner of Amazon, are two of the many entrepreneurs who have projects to install small satellite networks, or megaconstelations, to expand broadband worldwide.

Space X-Musk’s company – has already launched dozens of mini-satellites within its project this year to create a dense network offering low-cost internet services.

“While the new trend of placing large satellite constellations in orbit could greatly benefit communication technologies, it also has the potential to generate new space debris, especially because of the increased risk of collision and the increased number of launches per year,” says Di Pippo.

“Another concern with regard to these megaconstations is their possible light pollution, which could complicate space observation and research,” he adds.

“Like any other space activity, the benefits and dangers of megaconstations should be weighed. Transparency and international cooperation in the procedures for placing megaconstations in space will be essential to mitigate the problem and ensure the future security of the space environment,” said the head of the UN agency.

A danger to communications

Many activities on Earth depend on space, because every time a telephone call or financial transaction is made, a geolocalizer is used or time is consulted, satellite-transmitted data is used.

“Due to the risk of collision, telecommunications satellites, and in general all our functional objects in outer space, face an increasing risk of damage from space debris,” the Italian expert stresses.

Di Pippo argues that the international community works to preserve space as the common good of humanity for future generations, and urges states and businesses to take voluntary measures to mitigate the creation of waste.

For the time being, there is no mandatory International regulation to prevent space scrap among those participating in the space race, both states and companies.

Although the number of annual launches has increased in the last decade-111 were produced in 2018, while 66 in 2008-more and more actors design space objects so that, once they fulfill their mission, they can disappear from orbit.

Italian Astrophysics emphasizes that space technology is essential for achieving the Sustainable Development Goals of the United Nations.

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