Kessler syndrome

Published: July 20, 2019

The Kessler syndrome is a condition in which any collision between the objects in space is likely to generate a cascade of multiple space collisions in the low Earth orbit (LEO).

Each further collision would generate more space debris which would then cause further collisions between objects.

Why is this dangerous?

  • Every piece of satellite, space probe, and manned mission has the potential to produce space debris.
  • A dead satellite doesn t have anywhere to go, so it remains in its orbit (unless the ground staff has other plans for it like deorbiting it).
  • Estimates show that there are at least 600,000 pieces of space junk ranging from 1 cm to 10 cm, and on an average one satellite is destroyed/disabled by space debris each year.
  • This would lead to the increased generation and distribution of debris in satellite orbit which could render all space activities and space exploration unviable.
  • The Kessler syndrome is dangerous because of the domino effect it causes.

Who is tracking the debris?

Objects larger than 10 cm (4 inches) are currently being tracked by the US Space Surveillance Network. These objects, 22000 in number are the most dangerous in orbit and require special precautions.

Why is it in news?

With so many rocket launches taking place, the likelihood of a Kessler syndrome taking place has increased manifold. Now the rocket launches need to be scheduled as per the availability of a path free of space clutter.

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