The amount of space debris is growing rapidly as we continue to send satellites for different purposes. Understandably, a group of researchers have called for regulations to control the amount of space debris.
In a recently published paper in the journal Nature Astronomy, the group of researchers from Edinburgh University described the space debris as they can affect “professional astronomy, public stargazing and the cultural importance of the sky”.
This latest call to control space debris come after a brief was submitted to the U.S. Court of Appeals last year supporting the positions of several organizations against a Federal Communications Commission order granting license amendments for SpaceX Starlink satellites.
The researchers said, “We have laid out the argument for the urgent need for orbital space to be considered part of the human environment,” requiring “environmental protection through existing and new policies, rules and regulations at national and international levels”.
As a result, they asked policymakers around the world to consider the environmental impacts of all aspects of satellite constellations, including launch, operation and de-orbit, and to work with all stakeholders to co-create a shared, ethical, sustainable approach to space.
Earlier last week, the European Space Agency released a report that revealed that scientists have already spotted more than 30,000 items of space debris in Earth’s orbit through surveillance networks and the number is growing each year.
At the time, ESA said, “Many of these constellations are launched to provide communication services around the globe. They have great benefits, but will pose a challenge to long-term sustainability.”
“The low-Earth orbit has become congested with increased traffic and the long-lasting nature of space debris in low-Earth Orbit is causing a significant number of close encounters, known as ‘conjunctions,’ between active satellites and other objects.”
Although a growing number of satellites are reaching the end of their missions are being disposed of responsibly, the researchers said there is still more work to be done.
They noted, “An increasing percentage of disposal attempts are successful, but too many are left drifting in important orbits with no attempt made to remove them. A successful removal rate of at least 90% for all types of space object is required to limit the growth rate of space debris, before we can start cleaning it up.”