NASA Unveils SpaceSustainability StrategyAfter Near-Miss Collision

NASA's TIMED spacecraft narrowly avoided colliding with a defunct Russian satellite in low Earth orbit. In response, NASA unveiled its first Space Sustainability Strategy to address the growing problem of space junk.

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Aqsa Younas Rana
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NASA Unveils SpaceSustainability StrategyAfter Near-Miss Collision

NASA Unveils SpaceSustainability StrategyAfter Near-Miss Collision

NASA's TIMED spacecraft recently had a close call with the defunct Russian satellite Cosmos 2221 in low Earth orbit, narrowly avoiding a collision that could have created thousands of pieces of orbital debris. In response to this near-miss incident, the space agency has unveiled its first Space Sustainability Strategy, aimed at addressing the growing problem of space junk and the risks it poses to operational satellites and spacecraft.

Why this matters: The accumulation of space debris poses a significant threat to the long-term sustainability of space activities, and failure to address this issue could have catastrophic consequences for global communication, navigation, and weather forecasting systems. As the number of satellites in orbit continues to increase, the development of comprehensive strategies to mitigate space debris is crucial tosave, us, space debris and ensuring the continued exploration and utilization of space.

The TIMED (Thermosphere-Ionosphere-Mesosphere Energetics and Dynamics) spacecraft, launched in 2001 to study the Earth's upper atmosphere, passed within just 10 meters of Cosmos 2221 according to LeoLabs, a company that tracks space debris. The estimated probability of collision was 8%, which could have resulted in the creation of 2,500 to 7,500 fragments of orbital debris had the two objects collided.

NASA's Space Sustainability Strategy, introduced in the wake of this incident, focuses on developing a framework to understand and mitigate the risks associated with the ever-increasing amount of space debris in Earth's orbit. The agency has requested $41.2 million in funding for space sustainability initiatives in its fiscal year 2025 budget, with the goal of defining the problem before proposing solutions.

The issue of space debris has become increasingly pressing in recent years, with over 100 million pieces of space trash, including defunct satellites, rocket parts, and dead batteries, currently floating in Earth's orbit. This accumulation of debris poses a significant risk of collisions, which can have catastrophic consequences for operational spacecraft and satellites.

The near-collision between NASA's TIMED spacecraft and the defunct Russian satellite Cosmos 2221 serves as a stark reminder of the urgent need to address the growing problem of orbital debris. As space agencies and private companies continue to launch more objects into Earth's orbit, the development of comprehensive strategies and international cooperation will be crucial in ensuring the long-term sustainability of space activities and preventing potentially disastrous collisions.