In focus: Space Debris

In focus: Space Debris

What is space debris?

  • Inactive satellites that have passed their functional life, leftovers from a rocket or other small fragments form space debris often called as space junk.
  • The A-SAT missile tests that shoot down a satellite adds to the space debris in space.

Threat of space debris

  • Space debris, even of sizes less than 1 cm, could collide with the operational satellites and render them dysfunctional.
  • Due to lack of atmosphere the space debris in space remains for hundreds of year posing a perpetual threat to active satellites in space.
  • According to estimates from European Space Agency, there are about 7,50,000 objects of size one cm or above in space.
  • China was heavily criticized by the global community when it conducted the A-SAT missile test in 2007 in an 800-km orbit leaving space debris.


Defense of India

  • India has justified its missile test saying that it chose the orbit above 300 km in order to reduce the impact of space debris.
  • Further the number of satellites at such heights is few reducing the probability of a collision.


Law regulating space debris

  • There is no binding international law regulating creation of space debris.
  • In accordance with the Outer Space Treaty, 1967, parties should avoid activities that lead to harmful contamination and may affect the interests of other parties in space.



  • Though India justifies its position by presenting calculations of decomposition of space debris, even a small risk of space debris could potentially destroy operational satellites and should be avoided in all circumstances.
Section : Science & Tech