By Staff Writers,
Published by Space Daily, 25 October 2021
Bethesda MD (SPX) – Over the last several years we have been yelling and screaming about the existential threat of space debris on our ability to conduct space commerce, but the world is not listening. Instead, several organizations continue to add new spacecraft to the near-Earth space environment while totally ignoring the ultimate consequences.
Just over the past 18 months the population of low-orbiting active satellites has grown from 1,918 to several thousand. And, this is only the beginning of population growth, as more than 50,000 new satellites are in production and will be added to near-Earth space over the next few years.
So, what’s the big deal? There are two problems. First the shear number of satellites to be added to already close orbits creates a nightmare traffic situation. Second, the 60+ years of accumulated junk and debris is filling all of near-Earth space and we cannot not see it, let alone do anything about it. But, we have simply ignored it.
Sometime in the near future, the mass and distribution of junk and active satellites will exceed the capacity of space to safely contain the debris generated by the addition of the 50,000+ new satellites into orbits that are already approaching gridlock. When this limit is reached our ability to travel in space may be greatly diminished.
When will this happen? No one knows the answer, but It could be soon. As more and more satellites are launched, the frequency of collision events will dramatically increase. After that, low-Earth orbits will begin to experience exponential collisions among the many old and new satellite constellations. After that, all space-related services may end.
Can remedial action wait until this gridlocking event starts? Spacefaring nations have two options: continue business as usual that could result in the total loss of space activities for decades, if not longer; or, initiate space sustainability programs that lead to control of the space-based debris population. Such a program would offer three essential operations:
+ Precisely tracks and projects the trajectories of all large resident space objects (RSO) such that active satellites can avoid close conjunctions.
+ Control the population of small-but-dangerous debris objects through active removal operations.
+ Manages space traffic of active satellites to maintain safe flight paths.
The “do nothing” option could result in the complete loss of the soon-to-be one-trillion-dollar annual space commerce revenue. The reopening of space would cost at least several hundred billion dollars and likely take decades to achieve. The second option would assure continued safe commerce but require a very complex program involving several new space systems and a multi-billion-dollar annual budget.
Unfortunately, the world economy cannot afford to do nothing. The real choice is to either pay for space sustainability now or pay much, much later.
See: Original Article