Saturday, November 29, 2008

How Space Debris is Currently Handled-part 2 (6 of 9)

The mitigation or the slowing of growth, of debris consists of limiting the debris released during normal operations, minimizing in-orbit break-ups and collisions and to seeking to dispose of the spacecraft after its useful lifetime, either by placing in an unused (graveyard) orbit or to de-orbit it, sending it back to Earth. (IADC, 2007) In 2004, The FCC required that to receive a FCC license and continue transmitting, all U.S.-licensed satellites launched after March 18, 2002, will have to be retired in a graveyard orbit after their useful lives (de Selding, 2004). While this is a commendable effort, it is a problem for most of the commercial satellite companies, because the amount of fuel to send the spacecraft into an unused orbit equals 3 months of normal use. And this also quite is difficult to enforce, because much of the time satellites malfunction of are stopped in some way from changing orbits. So while the current method for dealing with the space debris problem by mitigation and shielding seems to work, it cannot be maintained at current levels and keep space usable at current or increased loads in the future. For one of the major problems of space debris is that even if no more spacecraft are deployed and no more potential debris introduced, the amount of space debris would still increase, as proposed by the Kessler syndrome.
The Kessler syndrome, as discovered by Donald J Kessler, formerly head of the NASA orbital debris program office, posits that when the number of debris in orbit reach a critical mass, than it reaches a domino effect of destruction and debris called collisional cascading.
his is when the debris created from one collision or explosion spreads out and causes another collision which then creates more debris and so on, creating a steady growth of damaging space debris that greatly decreases the potential for orbital space use. This decrease of use would be due to the sheer amount of speeding, colliding debris that would destroy a spacecraft in a matter of months or days, or would require so much shielding that, except for the wealthiest of organizations, it would be economically impossible to launch spacecraft that size. Despite this worrying predicament, the required critical mass has been reached in most of the commonly used low earth orbits because of the almost unchecked growth of space debris, due to a lack of concern. The future of space use is too important to risk. The world has become so heavily dependent and benefited so much from artificial satellites in only 45 years, that allowing Earth’s orbit to become a debris cage for the Earth is a step backwards, away from the technological and space age. But it sometimes seems that the countries of the world are taking that step backwards by arranging to weaponize space.

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