IAS Gyan

Daily News Analysis


24th August, 2023 Geography

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The pressing issue of space debris and the call for a legally-binding treaty to address the challenges posed by the growing amount of debris in Earth's orbit.


  • A treaty similar to the recent UN treaty for conserving and sustainably using the high seas is advocated by scientists to protect Earth's orbit.

Rising Satellite Numbers and Space Debris

  • Expected increase in satellites orbiting Earth from 9,000 to 60,000 by 2030.
  • Over 100 trillion untracked fragments of old satellites in orbit.

Space Debris and its Composition

  • More than 27,000 tracked pieces of "space junk," including non-functional spacecraft and debris from launch vehicles.
  • Space debris generated from satellite disintegration, collisions, and anti-satellite tests.

Impact of Space Debris and Fragmentation

  • Russian COSMOS 2499 satellite's disintegration resulted in 85 tracked pieces at an altitude of 1,169 km.
  • Collisions between satellites lead to the release of numerous new fragments.

Need for a Treaty and Responsibilities

  • Proposed treaty should hold producers and users accountable for satellites and debris.
  • Calls for international legislation with fines and incentives for responsible actions.

Global Cooperation and Corporate Responsibility

  • Treaty should emphasize commitment to global cooperation among countries using Earth's orbit.
  • Lack of incentives for companies to clean up orbits or include de-orbiting functions in satellites.

Guidelines and Challenges

  • Current absence of a comprehensive international treaty for minimizing orbital debris.
  • UN guidelines exist for mitigating space debris, but their enforcement is limited.
  • The Outer Space Treaty faces hindrances due to geopolitics, technology changes, and commercial interests.

Risk and Consequences

  • Space debris could lead to a chain reaction of collisions, rendering Earth's orbit unusable.
  • Parallels drawn between space debris and oceanic plastic pollution.

Learning from the Ocean Initiative

  • The need for collaborative efforts akin to the UN Ocean initiative to address space debris.
  • Avoiding the mistakes in plastic pollution mitigation and working collectively to prevent a crisis.

Safeguarding Space Exploration and Growth

  • Minimizing lower Earth orbit pollution essential for continued space exploration and satellite advancements.
  • Emphasizing the importance of a global agreement to prevent a detrimental outcome.


Q) Examine the parallels drawn between space debris and oceanic plastic pollution, emphasizing the importance of collaborative efforts and international cooperation. (150 words)