The idea of threats to Earth from space sounds like science fiction, but in some ways our planet has always been prone to them, think of the giant asteroid that wiped out dinosaurs 65 million years ago.
Fortunately, such occurrences are extremely rare; But other natural phenomena such as solar storms can strike much more frequently from space. They have little direct impact on living things, but they can devastate the electronic systems on which we are increasingly dependent, particularly satellite-based technologies.
The proliferation of artificial satellites has created its own danger in space, as debris in orbit has the potential to destroy other satellites.
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration monitors “space weather”; and NASA’s Planetary Defense Coordination Office coordinates the search for potentially dangerous asteroids and other near-earth objects (NEO).
On the contrary, the European Space Agency (ESA) has bundled all of these activities under the umbrella of its space situational program, launched in 2009, which is divided into three segments covering space debris, space weather and nearby objects.
Problem With Space Debris
The satellites that humans rely on for communication, navigation and environmental monitoring are increasingly threatened by all of the junk that is in orbit with them, including abandoned satellites and the rocket stages that launched them, but if that is the extent of the Problem there was. Unfortunately, these objects tend to multiply, partly through explosions from residual fuel and partly through collisions. Original object, due to their high speed and the fact that they all move in slightly different orbits (this is due to the additional random speeds given by the explosion.
Operational satellites are equipped with maneuvering nozzles so that they can be moved to another orbit When a piece of space junk is known to be heading for them, but with tens of thousands of objects large enough to cause serious problems in orbit, the bell rang at a size of 0.4 in. (One centimeter) at 25 meters or above Furthermore, keeping an eye on them all is not an easy task.
But that is exactly what the Space Surveillance and Tracking segment of ESA’s Space Situation Awareness program has to do.It uses a network of telescopes, radars, and laser range stations to detect and track objects, and then processes the resulting data at ESA mission control in Darmstadt, Germany. The operations management issues a warning if an evasive maneuver is deemed necessary.
This system works well. Right now, but that won’t always be the case, the BBC reported. The number of newly launched satellites is higher than ever, according to the BBC, while the number of fragmented objects is increasing due to ongoing collisions. The concern is that the amount of space debris may reach a tipping point beyond which a continuous cascade of self-generated collisions takes place. This is known as Kessler syndrome and would disable certain orbits if continued unchecked.
ESA Consider methods for the active removal of space debris. Its ClearSpace1 mission, due to start in 2025, will be the first in the world to remove a piece of space debris from orbit.
Clear space-1 will target particular piece of space junk (100 kilograms) payload adapter referred as Vespa with which ESA stationed a satellite in 2013.After he hits Vespa, ClearSpace1 will grab him with robotic arms and then fire his missile out of orbit. The plan is for both ClearSpace1 and Vespa to burn out when they re-enter the earth’s atmosphere.
Though there is thousands of space. Garbage, the greatest threat comes from the largest objects. At the International Astronautical Congress in October 2020, Darren McKnight of Centauri Corporation presented a list of the 50 “most statistically worrying” debris objects, also reported in Acta Astronautica about the persistence of their orbits and their likelihood of colliding with another object. More than 75% of the top 50 are spent launch stages remaining in orbit, while 80% were created in the last century before space agencies began taking specific measures to contain debris in orbit. Envisat surveillance satellite, launched in 2002
When Space Weather Turns Deadly
According to ESA, the sun is the main source of space weather for the earth. Space weather phenomena such as solar flares and coronal mass ejections (CMEs) have been around for a long time, but only in the modern world. they have become a serious threat. As long as people stay on the ground and don’t rely on electronic systems for navigation and communication or the power grid for power supply, they might blissfully be unaware of solar activity.
The negative effects of space weather are particularly evident in the space environment itself, where high-energy radiation can destroy a satellite’s solar panels and damage electronic systems, especially during severe solar storms. This has implications for satellite television and broadband services. as well as for ships and aircraft that rely on satellites for navigation.
But high-energy solar radiation can also pose a threat to people on earth, such as flight crews. Members whose health can be endangered if they spend a lot of time at high altitudes, while severe solar storms can disrupt radio communications and the power grid.
That means someone has to be on the lookout for the ever-changing whims of space weather, just like meteorologists work in ordinary weather, space weather forecasts work much like their earth-based counterparts, using a combination of data from a variety of sources, both on the ground and in space from computer models calculate what is likely to happen. In contrast to ground-based forecasts for the general public, space weather forecasts are aimed at the economic sectors most likely to be affected. ESA’s Space Weather Network, for example, provides personalized services to a variety of industries, from airlines and power distribution systems to spacecraft operators and aurora tourism agencies.
Although numerous satellites operated by ESA, NASA, and other agencies help monitor space weather, all of these satellites perform other tasks as well. In contrast, ESA’s Lagrange spacecraft will be the first to focus solely on space weather. It is placed “next to” the Earth’s axis, equidistant from both, to provide the best possible view of solar storms heading towards our planet.
Dodging Near By Asteroids
They can be hundreds of millions of kilometers away on the other side of the Sun, according to Space.com, but they move in orbits that cross or are close to Earth’s orbit, increasing the risk of a future collision. This does not necessarily mean a disaster, as many near-earth objects are so small that they burn when they enter the atmosphere. Telescopes can usually detect asteroids or comets large enough to cause serious damage while they are still far from impact. This is where the NEO segment of ESA’s Space Situational Awareness program comes into play.
NEO segment made up of number of components, including a European network of professional and volunteer observers, to determine the current position of near-Earth objects. These observations then flow into a central analysis team, which predicts future trajectories, assesses the risk of collisions and issues warnings if necessary. to civil authorities if the intended point of impact is within Europe. What is more optimistic is that ESA is also exploring ways to deflect an incoming NEO before it hits Earth.