As more and more countries are joining the race to launch more and more satellites into space, the Low earth orbit is becoming increasingly crowded. Highlight the associated issues and international efforts taken in this regard.

Low earth orbit extends to 2000 km from the earth’s surface. It mainly includes satellites for observation and reconnaissance.

Issues due to crowding of lower earth orbit:

  • Space Debris: 70% of space debris is in lower earth orbit itself, approximately 5 lakh pieces of debris. This increases vulnerability to Kessler syndrome, which means the generation of more debris by the collision of existing ones.
  • Possibility of spying and reconnaissance operation as satellites are close by.
  • The threat of collision with existing satellites by the large number of space debris.
  • Challenges to human operations, who can be hurt by debris orbiting at very high speeds. This increases the cost of designing equipment for space launches.

International efforts to tackle it:

  • ISRO has launched the NETRA program to ensure its satellites are not hit by debris.
  • Globally, countries have agreed to deorbit satellites within 25 years of the end of life. But only 60% of countries are following this rule.
  • Various technologies are being used by nations to clean space, like, Net capture, Harpoon capture, and ELSA-d by Japan, making satellites enter earth’s atmosphere where they get burned up and eventually fall on earth.

Thus, the use of space resources must be done in a sustainable manner, without the intention to militarise it.

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