The Issue of Space Debris
Since 1957, human space activities have placed a great deal of objects in orbit around Earth. Debris represents a growing risk for operational satellites, in case of collision, and on the ground when it reenters the atmosphere. This situation calls for action, namely, in the following four areas: obtaining accurate knowledge of the situation, protecting satellites and populations, reducing as far as possible the creation of new debris, and cleaning up in space by removing the largest objects. The prevention measures mainly consist in post-mission management for satellites and launchers. Measures have been developed, and have met with broad consensus. However, to ensure more systematic application, legal mechanisms are also being established, States being liable in the event of an incident. Protection actions are also needed, but offer only partial solutions: these actions involve setting up services for preventing the risk of collision and predicting atmospheric reentries. However, due to collisions between debris objects, these actions alone will not be enough to stabilize the debris population: cleanup actions will eventually be necessary.
KeywordsGeostationary Orbit Space Debris Atmospheric Drag Outer Space Activity Avoidance Maneuver
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