UN Getting Closer to Space Junk Guidelines


We all know space debris (or space junk, as I like to call it) is a big problem. While the lost cameras, gloves, and toothbrushes may reenter the atmosphere and burn-up without too much of a problem, the sheer number of spent rocket stages, broken down satellites, and broken off bits and pieces that come along with both pose a real hazards for working satellites, the International Space station, and astronauts on a space-walk. Moreover, the more space junk we create the more we have to watch. Currently, U.S. Strategic Command tracks over 10,000 pieces of space junk to ensure each piece’s reentry is not mistaken for enemy fire from above.

Fortunately, according to Aviation Week, the UN is making some headway in the fight against the floating trash, having secured the support of China for a landmark resolution that would set guidelines for limiting space debris. China’s support for the resolution was less than certain, particularly given its recent testing of anti-satellite weapons technology that generated a fair amount of space junk, itself, in the process. Most likely the Chinese may have felt they were safe from scrutiny, because the new guidelines are designed to curtail unintended space debris.

"While the Chinese test, which has been described as the worst debris event in space-flight history, was deliberate, the problem of unintended debris generation was underscored this month by the apparent rupture of a fuel tank on a Russian rocket that malfunctioned during a communications-satellite launch last year."

Above you’ll find one of the better photos of last year’s explosions that we found on Spaceweather.com. We found at least two other photos on the same site.

While it remains to be seen when an actual resolution will emerge from the UN regarding approaches for dealing with the problem of space trash and what (if any) teeth it might have when it’s passed, but its good to hear that someone is making some headway in solving this complicated problem.