ESA’s Woerners warns space debris are endangering satellites

Earth is surrounded by a cloud of space debris and this endangers satellites, ESA Director General Johann Woerner said on Thursday as he attended the United Nations’ Committee on the peaceful uses of Outer Space.

An estimated number of 700,000 objects larger than one centimeter and 170 million objects larger than one millimeter are expected to reside in Earth orbits, according to the European Space Agency (ESA).

Due to the risk of collision, operators have been forced to change the direction of some satellites in use or change their position, included the International Space Station (ISS), Woerner told the crowd at the committee.

In April 2017, experts on the matter met in the German town of Darmstadt for the 7th European Conference on Space Debris, and talks addressed acute issues like practices in debris avoidance, novel concepts for removing debris, and the deployment of large constellations of several thousand satellites for telecommunications.

One of these approaches is the Dutch Orbit-ED, designed to capture an out of control satellite and remove it from harms way. It is being tested using a robot and a satellite model.

Another approach is using deployable nets to catch derelict satellites as they tumble in space.

Onoosa Directo Simonetta Di Pippo said the final goal was to create a “safe commercial space” to protect the so-called “space economy” and guaranteeing a commercial activity for those private entities entering the market.

Woerner said it was necessary to stop polluting and remove all the garbage.

“I can’t discuss is this a German debris, is this a Portuguese debris or a Chinese debris. It doesn’t matter, we have to get rid of it,” he told the audience .

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