How to clear space

How to clear space

The amount of space debris in near-earth space in recent years began to grow like an avalanche. And this growth will not stop even if you stop further launches. In order not to lose space, you have to take active action to remove the threat of unmanaged objects. However, this problem is discussed mostly in the circle of experts and still not completely understood at the level of individuals, political decision makers.

With the beginning of the century in near-earth space began to develop the Kessler syndrome. The so-called increase in the number of garbage objects in space due to their mutual collisions and fragmentation. Space debris is abandoned satellites, spent rocket stages and just different parts and pieces that continue to turn in orbits, posing a threat to working spacecraft.

The biggest challenge associated with the objects in orbits with heights from 700 1,200 km There is almost no resistance of the atmosphere, and garbage objects are hundreds and thousands of years to be worn around the Earth. Each of them has a destructive power of a grenade and will damage a satellite or space ship. Even stopping the launch of new satellites will not stop the growing number of “orbital mines”.

Meanwhile, satellites at dangerous heights may soon become much more. Company OneWeb plans to create a group of 720 satellites at an altitude of 1200 km to provide global high-speed access to the Internet. Moreover, the bandwidth of this group sold out even before the launch, and already negotiations are underway for additional 1972 satellites at different altitudes. At OneWeb from the very beginning there is a rival system Starlink, developed by the SpaceX Corporation, which will be 4425 satellites at an altitude of about 1200 km and 7518 spacecraft at an altitude of about 340 km. OneWeb and SpaceX has already received a license by the Federal communications Commission (FCC), and is considering several other similar applications.

Thus, in the coming years in orbit would be thousands of new satellites with a period of active life of 5-7 years. Binding international norms on broken satellites from orbit does not exist.

The powers of the inter-Agency coordination Committee on space debris (IADC), which brings together 13 national space agencies, is limited to the hearing of reports and the preparation of expert reports.

In accordance with the IADC recommendations, released in 2007, the company OneWeb said at the outset that its dead satellites will remain in orbit for more than 25 years. The FCC later made by OneWeb and Starlink promises to “clean up” during the year. However, if competition outside the United States, the national regulator will be tempted to soften the demands.

In fact, in near-earth space unfolds creeping disaster, but on the political level, it only begins to sink in. Only, in fact, an international policy document on this issue — six-page “Guidelines for mitigation of space debris”, which was prepared by the UN Office for outer space Affairs in 2010 on the basis of the recommendations of the IADC. These recommendations have been incorporated in the published in the same year, “National space policy of the United States” as well as the Russian GOST R 52 925-2008. However, neither document does not set specific targets for preventing the development of syndrome of Kessler.

In the language of economists littering of space is negative externalia, that is, the implicit damage to third parties. This type of damage is normal waste, wastewater and emissions of greenhouse gases.

The organization, causing negative externalities must either prevent damage (e.g., process waste), or to pay for its liquidation. This is based on payment for wastewater treatment, export and recycling, and trade of CO2 quotas.

However, in the absence of effective means of getting rid of space debris, it is difficult to estimate the value of the damage for the imposition of economic regulation.

Even among experts understanding of the priorities in the fight against space debris was formed in the last ten years. On the one hand, an imminent threat to space exploration is of small orbital debris, often even invisible from Earth. Large objects a little, they are being watched, and expensive satellites with the engines, unable to evade them. On the other hand, large debris is a source of small and provokes the development of the syndrome of Kessler. According to some estimates, below the long-term plan to stabilize the situation with space debris, enough to annually remove with orbit of just five of the most dangerous objects, provided of course that their place will not take new ones.

The following priorities have emerged in the fight against space debris: