European countries will join forces to protect their assets against space debris as part of a new £58m (€70m) programme.
Approved by the European Parliament this week, the European Space Surveillance and Tracking (SST) Framework will provide alerts to help reduce risks of collisions between functional satellites in the Earth’s orbits and defunct spacecraft and other orbital garbage.
It will also serve to warn countries in case of uncontrolled re-entries of large spacecraft that might possibly reach the Earth’s surface and cause damage or put people’s lives at risk.
“Avoiding space collisions could save up to €210m per year and remove a serious risk to the delivery of economic gains expected from the EU's space programmes,” said European Commission Vice-President Antonio Tajani, Commissioner for Industry and Entrepreneurship.
The framework binds EU member states owning radars and telescopes capable of monitoring both – functioning satellites and space debris - to combine their capacities into a European space surveillance and tracking service.
Since the beginning of human space utilisation, thousands of spacecraft have been launched to space with most of them no longer operational. Around 16,000 objects which orbit the Earth are larger than 10cm, and between 300,000 and 600,000 are larger than 1cm. An object larger than 1cm hitting a satellite will most likely damage or destroy sub-systems or instruments on board. A collision with an object larger than 10cm will destroy the entire satellite.