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Europe proposes orbiting satellite telescope that will keep an eye on space debris- Technology News, Technomiz

Europe proposes orbiting satellite telescope that will keep an eye on space debris- Technology News, Technomiz

The European Space Agency (ESA) has proposed a plan to build and launch a satellite with a telescope that can monitor space debris. If the member nations approved the funding, the space agency hopes to complete the project by 2025, reported Space.com. It will be the first of its kind space junk monitoring satellite.ESA is an intergovernmental organization made up of 22 member states. Space debris is defunct human-made objects in space, mainly orbiting close to the Earth. They do not serve a useful function anymore and could be as small as a few millimetres in size but can cause a lot of damage to the spaceship if they hit one.

The rising amount of debris is a cause for concern as the man-made objects orbiting the Earth can lead to dangerous collisions with space vehicles. Image credit: University of Miami

Tim Flohrer, head of the Space Debris Office said that a 20-cm-wide optical telescope will monitor the space debris through a spaceship. Both NASA and ESA have detected a high density of smaller debris at the altitude of 600 to 700 kilometres.

“The telescope would be completely passive, working on the principle that the sun illuminates the object and we then detect the reflection from the object,” Flohrer told Space.com. “We have to get rather close to the objects. We would not be able to see every object in the millimetre or centimetre range, but we would see enough to validate our models.”

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Currently, with the help of artificial intelligence, ‘avoidance manoeuvres’ are being conducted on ESA’s slow-orbit Earth satellites. Although the results are not yet perfect, AI was able to identify the cases wherein the team could conduct these avoidance manoeuvres.

ESA has already signed a 86 million-euro ($102 million) contract with the Swiss company ClearSpace to start the space cleanup mission. This satellite will also hopefully launch in 2025. They will test the ClearSpace-1 mission by trying to target Vespa (Vega Secondary Payload Adapter). It was used to hold and then release a satellite in 2013. It weighs about 112 kilograms which is almost the size of a small satellite.

The space junk that has accumulated in the Earth’s orbit not only affects research but also blocks the view of stars. The space debris can possibly increase the night brightness by over 10 percent. This increase in the brightness can make parts of the planet light-polluted and may cause astronomers to miss significant discoveries.

China recently launched a Long March 5B rocket carrying the first module of its three-person space station. A large chunk of space debris is currently in an uncontrolled reentry phase. Parts of it are expected to crash down to Earth over the next few weeks. It could land anywhere from New York, Madrid and Beijing and as far south as southern Chile and Wellington, New Zealand.


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Updated: May 6, 2021 — 12:25 am

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