ESA wants to solve the excess of satellites before it’s too late

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“Few seem to me.” That’s the general response among aerospace engineers upon learning of the €800,000 that the European Space Agency has just put on the table to try to find a solution that avoids collisions between satellites in space. And it is that, only counting on what is already programmed for the remainder of the decade, the Earth’s orbit will have tens of thousands of new satellites coexisting with those that already exist (and the thousands of tons of space debris).

The private space race has been wanting space to become “the new internet” for years. Well, for now it has been filled with SPAM and there is no filter to free us from it.

The singod that orbits the Earth. We don’t see it, no; but it cannot be said that it is a surprise. There is so much space debris that we have lost control of many objects. In a recently published report, NASA noted that low Earth orbit has at least 100 million fragments the size of a grain of salt, 500,000 the size of a marble, and 26,000 fragments equal to or larger than a baseball, large enough to destroy a satellite.

Satellites that, by the way, we have more and more. To those that we have been launching since the 1950s, we must add the thousands of satellites that, between private companies (now at a commercial level) and public projects, we are going to launch to “conquer space.” Many thousands, in fact. Starlink intends to put 30,000 of them alone in the next few years.

Survive one day, to die another. Obviously, we have “ways” to solve the problem. In fact, if we could see the near orbit in real time, we would see how dozens of satellites move away from and come closer to the Earth to avoid collisions. And the problem is that, precisely that, reduces the useful life of the satellites because they entail a continuous fuel expense. For this reason, the ESA project is currently concentrating on deciding when it is worth moving.

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Satellites moving independently Astroscale has as purpose design automated systems that can determine the probability of orbital collisions with greater precision. If it is achieved, we will reduce the number of false alarms and unnecessary manoeuvres: we will lengthen the useful life of the junk we have up there. The idea, in fact, is that the satellites themselves are capable of performing the necessary calculations to avoid collisions. In this way, the system would gain resilience.

A (high-tech) patch. However, there is no lack of voices that assure that all these initiatives are, deep down, a patch that can buy us some time, but that does not solve the problem. The truth is that international space law has been decades out of date and no one seems to have much incentive to reform it. Without a unitary authority and each country acting on its own, it is possible that the new space race will end up dying of its own success.

Above all, if we take into account the damage that has been done in recent months to international space collaboration (one of those few places that had remained isolated from land conflicts), it does not bode well for the issue to come to the fore. table soon. Perhaps we have to wait for someone to take the initiative and become independent from this rock we call home.

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“Few seem to me.” That’s the general response among aerospace engineers upon learning of the €800,000 that the European Space…

“Few seem to me.” That’s the general response among aerospace engineers upon learning of the €800,000 that the European Space…

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