Space “traffic jams” worry scientists – The New Indian Express
Express news service
BENGALURU: It’s just not on city roads that we have to deal with traffic jams. Space scientists are worried about the growing number of satellites in lunar orbit, and even more in Earth orbit. This concern of an impending “traffic jam” in space – mainly in the orbits of the Earth, the Moon and (in the future) Mars – found expression at the Sydney Dialogue crossover session in Bengaluru Tech Summit Friday. Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO) President K Sivan called for a collaborative approach to spatial situational awareness (SSA) by tracking objects in orbit and predicting where they will be at any given time .
The head of ISRO particularly underlined the importance of the collaboration of all space agencies to track objects in space and mitigate the threats of collisions or near collisions, and underlined that the role of QUAD (the United States, Australia, Japan and India) be more important in this regard. Sivan’s call gains momentum in the context of a projected near-collision between Indian orbiter Chandrayaan-2 (CH2O) and the Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) / National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO)), both on lunar orbit and how it was avoided through data exchange and collaboration.
The extremely close conjunction between CH2O and LRO was scheduled to occur on October 20 at 11:15 a.m. IST over the lunar North Pole. A week before that, analyzes by ISRO and JPL / NASA showed that the separation between the two spacecraft will be less than 100 meters. The data exchange between ISRO and JPL / NASA highlighted the importance of undertaking a collision avoidance maneuver, and it was mutually agreed that CH2O will perform the maneuver. The move was made at 8:22 p.m. on October 18 and the modified orbit of CH2O confirmed that there would no longer be close conjunctions between the two spacecraft in lunar orbit.
While there are currently only nine spacecraft in lunar orbit, according to the Union of Concerned Scientists, there are 3,372 large and small satellites active in Earth orbit. This inaugurates an urgent need for collaboration between the various space agencies to avoid satellite collisions, even more in Earth orbit than in lunar or Martian orbits. Sivan said a full SSA was impossible in isolation, and collaboration with other space agencies was imperative.
Hiroshi Yamakawa, president of the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency, also admitted that transparency is important in the sustainable use of outer space and that collaboration is imperative with space stations in need of information. other countries on satellites and space debris. “Or, due to the heavy traffic, there may be a good chance of collisions between satellites or space debris,” he said. Sivan suggested establishing a new observation facility in the southern hemisphere as part of QUAD. The facility can take advantage of countries’ unique geographic advantages and data shared among member states through an appropriate mechanism, he said.