Thursday, December 16, 2021

Space Debris Concerns Grow After Russia Destroys a Satellite in Orbit

Kosmos 1408 debris cloud
(via Wikimedia Commons)
Russia's destruction of one of its defunct satellites in a test of an anti-satellite weapon in mid-November has increased concerns about the potential risks posed by space debris to other spacecraft. 

You may recall that the crew of the International Space Station briefly took cover in their crew capsules in case debris from the Kosmos 1408 satellite damaged the station, but the ARRL Letter notes that amateur satellites are also at risk. AMSAT President Robert Bankston, KE4AL, noted that "there are at least 1,500 trackable fragments (from the Kosmos satellite) and, possibly, hundreds of thousands of smaller yet still-threatening pieces of debris in low Earth orbit," adding that satellites such as those launched by AMSAT do not have the capability that space stations do to maneuver out of the way of potentially-damaging space junk. The FCC requires all satellites, including amateur, to have an approved orbital debris mitigation plan before being licensed.