Concern is growing about the threat to defence operations, communications services, aviation and shipping posed by the thousands of items of space junk in high-speed orbit around the Earth. It is feared that collisions could set off a chain reaction known as the “Kessler syndrome”, with more debris created with each impact. The creation of a cloud of debris travelling at around 15,700mph could potentially wipe out satellites and prevent future space flight.
According to the European Space Agency, 9,400 tonnes of objects are in orbit, with 28,600 items of debris tracked by space surveillance networks. Already, there are 128million objects circling the earth which are sized one centimetre or less.
A key risk is that satellites could collide, sending out a spray of objects at dangerous objects. Of the approximately 7,200 satellites in space, only around 4,300 are still functioning.
Slough Labour MP Tanmanjeet Singh Dhesi pressed the Government for what assessment it has made of the threat the Kessler syndrome could pose to national security, defence, the economy, communications capability, scientific research, weather forecasting, aviation and shipping, and GPS services.
Amanda Solloway, the minister for science, research and innovation, said the UK Space Agency assesses “space-based risks to critical national infrastructure (CNI)”.
She said: “There are heavy dependencies between the CNI sectors such as defence operations, communications, aviation and shipping, which we are engaged in identifying as well as working to ensure the impact of disruptions to space services is understood and mitigated. A Kessler Syndrome incident is a theoretical risk which has the potential to significantly impact operational services, up to and including a total loss.
“This has never been experienced, but we are working to understand the likelihood, assess the impacts and mitigate the risk. The Government is committed to regularly reviewing and assessing risks to ensure that they are accurately prioritised in our resilience framework.
“Our Space Surveillance and Tracking function is dedicated to reducing the risk from orbital hazards. We supplement US data with UK sensors and analysis to monitor orbital collisions and other events, working in conjunction with [the Ministry of Defence] Space Operations Centre. We also support several programmes and initiatives looking at options for safely removing orbital debris.”
This Article firstly Publish on www.express.co.uk