It is estimated that there are about 130 million objects larger than 1 mm that currently orbit the Earth. Such small space debris poses a danger to current missions as it can impact satellites or even the International Space Station (ISS).
This is what has happened recently with a small object that hit and pierced a robotic arm. Although the instrument is still operational, this is a clear reminder that space debris may end up being a problem for the future of space exploration.
Unisa preventable collisions
Although space agencies are trying to monitor the situation and track more than 23,000 objects in low geostationary orbits to avoid collisions, the size of those objects is roughly that of a tennis ball.
Tracking smaller objects is impossible, but these small objects can still cause serious damage like the one that occurred on the Hubble Space Telescope antenna in 1997.
This time the object hit the so-called Canadarm2, also known as the Space Station Remote Manipulator System (SSRMS). This instrument is a robotic arm developed by the Canadian Space Agency (CSA) and that allows assisting in the maneuvers of objects outside the ISS.
The impact, which punctuated the robotic arm, was discovered during a routine inspection on May 12, but as explained by the CSA, despite the damage, ” the arm’s performance remains unaffected.”
It is therefore expected that the arm will maintain its normal operation. Still, this event has once again highlighted a problem that is being aggravated by the frenetic pace we are experiencing with the launch of satellites such as those that SpaceX is carrying out as part of the Starlink project.
This has already generated other criticisms, and of course, all of them also become potential drivers of the problem of space debris.