How do we clean up debris in space?

Space junk…debris scattered around the earth. Photo source: Pixabay

Did you know if we keep polluting space, we will soon have a ring, like Saturn? Yes, it’s true; we have started polluting space with the launch of Sputnik 1 in 1957 by the USSR.

The United Nations (UN) concerned itself with space debris in the 1990s and implemented mitigation measures to control the proliferation of space debris. The new updated version was re-introduced in June 2007. The name of the latest version was the’ 25-year rule’. It is a guideline adopted by the international Inter-Agency Space Debris Coordination Committee (IADC).

China made and launched an anti-satellite missile (ASAT) to destroy one of its old weather satellites orbiting 537miles above Earth. Sadly, China’s ASAT missile test created enormous space debris in history, making the threat much more severe. According to many speakers at a session on the growing problem of space debris at the APS April meeting in St. Louis.

photo of galaxy
Who is going to clean up the space? Photo by Pixabay on

How important is it to reduce space pollution?
It is crucial to reduce space pollution as over 27,000 rocket bodies are still orbiting Earth, and most of them are 10 cm and more prominent. These space debris are travelling at the speed of 15,000 mph (24,000 km/h) and can cause severe risks in future missions due to their speed and size.

Another critical problem due to the constant increase in space debris is that many parts crash with each other causing more debris to form. It is possible that these consistent crashes can lead to some of the debris crashing on Earth, causing devastation to life and property.

blue and white planet display
That’ our planet – the only home we’ve got. Photo by Pixabay on

How can we reduce Space junk?
There are many techniques to remove the space junk or the decommissioned satellites and rocket boosters. The first one is deorbiting, which is the deliberate, forced re-entry of a space object into the Earth’s atmosphere by applying a retarding force, most probably a propulsion system.

This method is extremely dangerous as if it is not done correctly, it can cause devastation to life and property. These things can happen if there is some miss-calculation in the satellite’s trajectory or the rocket booster.

The second one is an orbital lifetime which happens when the satellite’s orbit decays due to the change of the satellite’s orbit and the object it is orbiting from the function of atmospheric density. In the end, it collides with the object it is orbiting or other satellites, and it burns up in re-entry. This method takes place naturally and is not in our control.

space technology research science
One of the many satellites orbiting the space. Photo by Pixabay on

The Future of Space junk
ESA is the European Space Agency that developed the ‘space claw’ known as Clear Space-1. Its objective is to capture and dispose of space junk and will launch in 2025. The Clear Space-1 mission targets the VESPA (Vega Secondary Payload Adapter) upper stage left in an approximately 800 km to 660 km altitude orbit after the second flight of ESA’s Vega launcher back in 2013.

The Vespa is close in size to a small satellite, of simple shape and sturdy construction, close to the Vespa mass, which is 100 kg. Because of its shape and structure, this satellite makes it a reasonable first goal before taking on more challenging seizures by follow up missions and eventually trying multi-object seizures.

The ClearSpace-1′ chaser’ will be first commissioned and put through critical tests at an orbit of 500-km that will capture using a quartet of robotic arms under ESA supervision and be in target orbit for rendezvous. This Clear Space-1 and Clear Space-1′ chaser’ will be used to reduce the space debris by burning it in re-entry. Apart from debris being destroyed on re-entry, the combined Vespa and chaser will also be deorbited to burn on re-entry.

silhouette of people stargazing
Preventing space debris is equally important. Photo by Kendall Hoopes on

My Opinion on Space Debris
In my opinion, learning about space debris is very important. Learning about space debris is important because if space debris keeps growing, then it will be impossible to leave Earth. That is the main reason I am writing about it. Many people think that climate change and water pollution are the leading causes of concern, but they are wrong.

Preventing space debris is just as important because the future of humanity is in the stars, not on Earth. As Earth will get destroyed due to the increase in Earth’s greenhouse gases which will make our planet’s surface more extreme than present-day Venus, which will heat the surface of Earth enough to melt it.

I think that the only way for humanity to advance and sustain itself is if we colonise other planets, and that is not possible because in a few years, leaving Earth would be life-threatening. That’s why I think that space debris should be the main reason of concern for the UN.

Advay Khetan

Contributor: Advay Khetan

About our Writing Program Student
Advay is an 9th grader, studying in Delhi Public School, Faridabad.
He enjoys playing basketball, reading and playing the piano.
He is enthusiastic about marine creatures and space.


1. Not just Earth, humans are polluting space too. Here’s how we can stop

2. Space Debris Still a Growing Problem

3. ESA commissions world’s first space debris removal

The Lifestyle Portal

Tanya is a graduate in Sociology from Sophia College, Mumbai, a post-graduate in Communications and Media from SNDT Women’s University in Mumbai and holds a Master's Degree in Journalis & Mass Communications from Chandigarh University. A former writing mentor and a seasoned lifestyle writer, Tanya writes columns on The Lifestyle Portal of life and living.

Leave a Reply

%d bloggers like this: