- The number of satellites in earth’s orbit have more than tripled in the last decade. It is further going to become more dense because the satellite launches are becoming cheaper, the number of players have increased, the complexity of mission and slot allotment have also increased.
- As outerspace is considered a shared natural resource, the United Nations Committee on Peaceful Uses of Outer Space (COPUOS) in 2019 adopted a set of 21 voluntary, non-binding guidelines to ensure the long-term sustainability of outer space activities.
Key Space Sustainability Issues:
- Orbital Crowding is one of the key issues of space sustainability.
- It poses a direct threat to the operations and safety of a mission and is likely to cause legal and insurance-related conflicts.
- Space Debris is another prominent issue. It not only causes direct threat to the operations and safety of a mission, but is likely to cause legal and insurance related conflicts.
- Solar and Magnetic Storms which potentially damage communication systems are also a cause of concern.
- Terrestrial Carbon Footprint of outer space missions.
What does UK’s plan for space sustainability entail?
- The U.K. calls for an “Astro Carta” for space sustainability, based on Artemis accord model for sustainable space exploration. It mentions four primary elements:
- To review the regulatory framework of the UK’s orbital activity
- To work with international organizations like G-7 and UN to emphasize international engagement on space sustainability
- To try and develop safety and quality related metrics that quantify the sustainability of activities.
- To induce additional funding of $6.1 million on active debris removal.
- It has also confirmed investments in its National Space Surveillance and Tracking Program, which works on collision assessment services for U.K.- licensed satellite operators.
India’s situation on space sustainability:
- PROJECT NETRA of ISRO is focused on monitoring debris and preventing collision with Indian satellites.
- International Cooperation: In April 2022, India and USA signed a new pact for monitoring of space objects at the 2+2 dialogue.
- To provide in-orbit services, ISRO is developing a docking experiment called ‘SPADEX’. It looks at docking a satellite on an existing satellite, offering support in re-fueling and other in-orbit services while enhancing the capability of a satellite.
- International Collaboration: Long term sustainability in space sector can’t be driven by one country/entity alone. A collective effort by all space players, with active role of the UN COPUOS or the UN Office for Outer Space Affairs (UNOOSA) is needed.
- Long-term sustainability looks towards space research and development of technology to ensure the reuse and recycling of satellites at every stage, active debris removal and in-orbit servicing.
- Discuss the key problems associated with Space Sustainability. What steps is India taking to reduce some of these problems. [10 marks, 150 words]