Before reading this headline, ask yourself when the last time you thought about space debris being an issue. For many, the answer is never. A growing problem within the astronomy field, groups such as NASA and The European Space Agency (Esa) are beginning to think of ways to eliminate debris that may damage satellites in the future and be launched by the International Space Station (ISS), and other projects companies.
In 2014, the ISS has had to move three times in fear of impact of debris. For the most part, the station must be wary of this debris because the sensitive material that sustains ISS can easily be destroyed by something incredibly small. With an orbit as fast as 17,000 mph, one could see how junk as large as a tennis ball could stop the station in its tracks, or in this case, force it to move.
A threat that is very real is also the creation of self sustaining debris. Known as the Kessler Syndrome, when two pieces of debris collide, these pieces may break and create even more junk that orbits throughout space. This growth of space junk may result in the loss satellites, which prompts the need to address the issue of debris.
Because this problem is growing rapidly, Esa and other organizations are thinking about taking down their large satellites to avoid the creation of more debris. Other groups, such as Planet Labs believe that small satellites are the key to the future; in theory, smaller satellites are harder to hit.
Many groups believe that cleaning up this debris is something we must do; however, since there is no authority, astronomy groups are building from the ground up. Planet Labs and OneWeb have decided to be the leaders in tackling the space junk issue, but these two groups need to completely understand what they are up against first, including the technology and the political and legal barriers.