Swachh Space: Japan’s plans to build wooden satellites highlight the problem of junk in space

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January 4, 2021 6:30 AM

Japan’s plans to build wooden satellites may or may not meet success, but do highlight the problem of junk in space

This reflects the devastating consequences space junk can have on new satellite launches. (Representative image)This reflects the devastating consequences space junk can have on new satellite launches. (Representative image)

Since Soviet Russia’s launch of the world’s first rocket into space in 1957—this kicked off the space race between it and the US—many countries have tasted space success, launching their satellites and rockets. Unfortunately, this has littered the Earth’s near-orbit zone with tonnes of debris. In fact, the problem has become so significant that the US defence network now has a special department which monitors space debris. As per a report, there are 500,000 chunks of debris orbiting the Earth’s that are of a size of 0.4 to 4 inches; 23,000 fragments floating in space—these can achieve a speed of over 20,000 mph—are over 4 inches in size. This reflects the devastating consequences space junk can have on new satellite launches. However, now, Kyoto University and a Japanese company have come together to find a solution.

As per a BBC report, the two are planning to experiment with wood to build satellites and plan to launch the first in 2023. Even if the experiment does not take off ground, the researchers will still be successful in getting the issue of space junk much deserved attention. While most countries are privatising space operations, very few are considering the cost to the near-Earth environment. Countries need to start deliberating on how to address this issue. Unless there is a global consensus, nations would try to out-compete each other in launches, paying little heed to the accumulation of space junk. Perhaps, its time to look at sustainable development from the point of view of ‘Swachh Space’ as well.

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