Play / pause Debris Causing Events

Debris Causing Events

  • Charlotte Newton
  • Interview by: Jess Boydon


Space often gets compared to the sea,

and, in maritime operations,

there's like a strict set of rules and laws

and governance and wherever else that say,

"This is how you behave.

This is who does what.

This is how you act."

And that's not yet established in space.

There are certain rules that say

"You're not allowed weapons of mass destruction in space."

But other than that,

it's a bit of a free-for-all.

And everyone is sort of relying on the fact that

if you make a big mess in space,

it also impacts you as well.

But there are times when foreign actors,

and to be fair, allied actors,

have behaved in a way that has caused space to be a

less pleasant place to operate.

So for example,

direct-ascent anti-satellite,

where you fire a missile at one of your satellites

as a test.

Always as a test.

It's never been done

in a defensive way, I guess,

or offensive way.

And that causes a huge debris cloud of pieces

that then exist in space for

as long as it takes them to come back down again,

which can be tens of years if not more.

And then that means that

there's now huge orbit full of

dust and bits of old rocket body and whatever else.

And you, if you were operating

a very highly sensitive piece of kit in space,

potentially wouldn't want to

put your satellite in that orbit

or in an orbit that's going to be near that,

or whatever.

So that would be an instance where

although that is allowed,

there's no rule anywhere that says

you can't shoot on your own satellite,

it's an unpleasant thing to do.

And allied forces might want to put out a message that says,

you know,

"This person's acted in a way that leaves space

a less habitable place for the rest of us,

that's potentially endangered people on the ISS,

that has caused problems for other people's

operations and satellites.

A piece of debris that's flying around the earth in orbit

can do significant damage to someone else's craft.

And it takes a lot of capital and investment

and time, money and man-power, person power

to launch something into space,

and when you've got it up there,

you expect it to have a mission life of however long,

and if someone inhibits that mission life

and causes you to have to constantly maneuver

out of the way and

have denial of service

or causes problems to your solar power panels,

that mean you lose power a lot.


And I think you'd be quite upset and annoyed by that.

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