From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :
Prelims level : NA
Mains level : Outer Spaces and its utility
Recently, the UK hosted the fourth summit for Space Sustainability in London in collaboration with the Secure World Foundation.
What does Sustainability in Outer Space mean?
- One of the hot issues when it comes to space sustainability is orbital crowding.
- With the emergence of large constellations and complex satellites, there is a risk of collisions and interference with radio frequencies.
- It poses a direct threat to the operations and safety of a mission and is likely to cause legal and insurance-related conflicts.
- Space debris is another prominent issue.
- After the completion of a mission, an ‘end-of-life protocol’ requires space objects to be moved to the graveyard orbit or to a low altitude.
- Other causes of concern are solar and magnetic storms which potentially damage communication systems.
- Such space weather threats need to be addressed along with the efforts to identify the terrestrial carbon footprint of outer space missions.
Why was a conference held in the UK?
- Long-term sustainability looks toward space research and development of technology to ensure the reuse and recycling of satellites at every stage.
- The UK plan proposes active debris removal and in-orbit servicing.
Policy measures so far
- As the outer space is considered a shared natural resource, the United Nations Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space (COPUOS) in 2019 adopted a set of 21 voluntary, non-binding guidelines.
- They aim to ensure the long-term sustainability of outer space activities.
What does the UK plan for space sustainability entail?
- The UK calls for an “Astro Carta” for space sustainability, based on the Artemis Accords model for sustainable space exploration.
- The UK Space Sustainability plan mentions four primary elements:
- To review the regulatory framework of the UK’s orbital activity
- To work with organisations such as the G-7 and the UN to emphasise international engagement on space sustainability
- To try and develop safety and quality-related metrics that quantify the sustainability of activities; and
- To induce additional funding of $6.1 million on active debris removal
- The UK also confirmed investments in its National Space Surveillance and Tracking Programme, which works on collision assessment services for UK-licenced satellite operators.
Where does India stand on space sustainability?
- India is well on its way to create a subsystem that addresses global sustainability questions.
- The headquarters of the Indian National Space Promotion and Authorisation Centre (In-SPACe) was formally inaugurated last month.
- One can expect an increased role of the private sector in India’s space activities.
- The ISRO has initiated ‘Project NETRA’ to monitor space debris.
- To provide in-orbit servicing, ISRO is developing a docking experiment called ‘SPADEX’.
- It looks at docking a satellite on an existing satellite, offering support in re-fuelling and other in-orbit services while enhancing the capability of a satellite.
- Outer space in the 2020s can no longer be considered a ‘space race’ because of the cost, when compared to the beginning of this century.
- Today, any entity (government or private) with the necessary access to resources and technology can invest in outer space.
- Sustainable practices in outer space would directly help reduce orbital crowding and collision risk while nurturing future technologies.
- As the natural course of evolution, the Plan for Space Sustainability, which includes private industries, is a timely move.
- This would serve as a model for other space programmes.