An estimated 3,000 active or inactive satellites are orbiting the planet, along with thousands of pieces of detritus of all types – from space tools to sections of launch vehicles. This results from a long practice of abandoning spacecraft, launcher stages and other material in space, and it poses an increasingly urgent threat of collisions for both manned and unmanned spacecraft orbiting the Earth.
Astrium is playing a key role in studies for a European space situational awareness programme that eventually will give a clearer picture of the space debris field surrounding the Earth, along with the risks it creates. Over and above support for both system and architecture definition, Astrium is proposing multiple solutions from ground- and space-based optical sensors for tracking, monitoring and identifying debris, to the control and analysis infrastructure for information produced through development and integration tools. This highly collaborative and cross-disciplinary initiative involves teams from Astrium sites in Germany, France and the UK.
Did you know… ?
The manned International Space Station modules are shielded with double-walled meteorite protective plates made of ceramic and polymer materials. These protective plates can withstand strikes by rubble of up to a centimetre in size. If a particle penetrates the first layer, it will be pulverised into smaller particles on impact.