Avoiding damage from space debris - space surveillance and tracking proposal Published on: 28/02/2013
Space debris poses a risk to our space infrastructure and to the space services we rely on in our daily lives and to our safety on earth.
Economic losses for European satellite operators stemming from collisions or costly and risky manoeuvres to avoid collisions are currently assessed at around €140 million per year, rising to about €210 million per year within the next decade.
The economic loss on the ground due to the disruption of applications or services that rely on data from satellites lost or damaged cannot be quantified, but implies a significantly higher figure.
It is estimated that up to 600,000 objects larger than 1 cm orbit the Earth, and at least 16,000 larger than 10 cm. An object larger than 1 cm hitting a satellite will damage or destroy sub-systems or instruments on board, and a collision with an object larger than 10 cm will destroy the satellite. Space debris also poses a risk to ground-based infrastructures and citizens' security when it falls out of orbit and re-enters the Earth's atmosphere.
Today, the European Commission proposed a new programme to help EU Member States combine their space surveillance capacities and offer services to locate and monitor this dangerous debris and alert satellite operators of collision risks and public administrations of so called uncontrolled re-entries – services known as space surveillance and tracking (SST).