Rubbish attack

poldu pink]

The stormy weather has hit one of my local beaches here in Cornwall and with it there has been a massive amount of pink bottles washed up on Poldhu cove.  27000 bottles of Vanish detergent were lost from a container ship west of Lands end and have spent months at the bottom of the ocean before the stormy weather has washed them ashore.   A clean-up is occurring with many volunteers arriving each day to help remove the plastic, although some have leaked detergent fortunately many of the bottles are still sealed.

However difficult it is to clear up my local beach it is considerable harder to deal with rubbish in space.   NASA currently tracks 20000 pieces of space junk and the amount is ever increasing.   This recent image highlights how the Earth’s orbit is becoming increasing cluttered.

space-junk_800x600

IMAGE CREDIT Royal Institute of Great Britain.

During 2015 the ISS had to modify its orbit numerous times to avoid collision with space junk.  In fact continuing to litter low earth orbit without formulating a plan of dealing for the existing pieces of junk is short sighted.   It is not like we can just go out and remove them!  The number of countries and independent businesses wishing to use low earth orbit is on the increase and I hope this does not mean a increase in the amount of junk.

5 thoughts on “Rubbish attack

  1. Brilliant article! That image of the earth with all the orbiting rubbish is quite telling and I hadn’t realized the problem was so acute and getting worse! Possible solution would be to fit any new satellites with either a self-destruct (small, on-board charge) or be fitted with a “de-orbiting” coupler much like was done on HST’s last servicing mission (a small, robotic vehicle is launched to recover/de-orbit any satellite so fitted). For old, obsolete or non-functioning satellites (aptly referred to as orbiting rubbish), targeted capture by a “smart robot” or some such mission, perhaps. Of the 20,000, how many are in use and how many are obsolete? Sadly, this country (USA) is to blame for much of it.

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    1. cornishstargazer

      Thankyou for your kind comments I’m glad you liked the article. I agree satellites should go up with safe disposal designed for when they reach the end of their life. Hopefully the reusable rockets of the future will go a long way to dealing with future rocket rubbish. I believe the poorly managed decommissioning of a Chinese weather satellite is responsible for 2000 of these objects alone. A clear up strategy is certainly needed.

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      1. You’re most welcome! Good point about SpaceX’s reusable launcher too! Agreed, as we move forward into a future increasingly dependent on GPS and satellite technology, such a strategy is imperative. I was unaware of the Chinese component of the on-orbit rubbish problem 🙂

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  2. Reblogged this on Astronomy Topic Of The Day and commented:
    Since the launch of Sputnik-1 in 1957, there has been a continual upload of space-borne hardware into earth orbit, some with high-value (GPS, Hubble, etc), some obsolete and some quite dangerous. If you’ve seen the movie “Gravity” (Sandra Bullock, George Clooney), you kind of get the picture. This problem isn’t going to fix itself and, sooner or later, an international solution needs to be implemented. We, quite literally, need to clean up our own backyard.

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