Space debris has reached alarming proportions, experts say

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Dubai - Issue of space debris discussed at Space4Sustainability forum at Expo 2020 Dubai.


A Staff Reporter

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Published: Wed 20 Oct 2021, 12:19 AM

Last updated: Wed 20 Oct 2021, 12:21 AM

The issue of space debris and the need for collaboration between countries to reduce costs, increase sustainability and promote space inclusivity were among the topics raised during the ‘Space4Sustainability’ forum organised by the Italy Pavilion at Expo 2020 Dubai.

As part of Space Week, the event brought together Italian space experts and industry leaders, including Simonetta Di Pippo, director of the United Nations Office for Outer Space Affairs (UNOOSA), who spoke about ‘Access to Space for All’, a joint initiative of UNOOSA, space agencies, research institutions and industry.

She said, “The initiative has given opportunities for other countries to enter space. Two recent examples are the nanosatellite project of the University of Nairobi, and another satellite project by the University of Malaysia. All of this has brought into focus the need for regulations and safety protocols, and UNOOSA is actively engaged in finding solutions.”

Professor Michèle Lavagna, professor in flight mechanics at Politecnico di Milano, Italy, said accumulating space debris had reached alarming proportions. There have been 6,110 launches since 1957 and it is estimated that 29,430 catalogued objects are in space – 26 per cent of them are satellites, and 16 per cent are still operational. “Some 2,300 fragments are flying in space at speeds between 16,000 and 20,000 km/hour,” she said.

She stressed that effective space exploration could go a long way in managing our planet better, and solving some of its problems. “We need to find ways to manage, control or destroy them, and technologies are being developed for that purpose. We’ve been generating space debris for 60 years, and it could take up to 130 years to restore normalcy,” she added.

Meanwhile, Paulo Glisenti, the commissioner-general of the Italy Pavilion at the Expo, said, “The Italy Pavilion is full of installations linked to space economy. This forum is an important initiative because it not only highlights the hardware and software that is making space accessible to all countries but more importantly demonstrates how smaller nations can reap its benefits at lower costs.”

Giulio Ranzo, CEO of Aveo, the Italian space propulsion company, said, “The rising demand for space technology and equipment is bringing the costs down. A number of SMEs are entering this booming field. I’m confident these developments will make space accessible to a large number of countries around the world.

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