Planet defense | all news

The Artemis 1 mission, which launched on November 16, paves the way for the Moon and space exploration 2.0.

“Earthlings can sleep easy now.” These words from DART mission engineer Elena Adams – the Double Asteroid Redirection Test – single-handedly sum up the success of the first planetary defense mission in history, launched on November 24, 2021, on a SpaceX Falcon9 rocket. This NASA mission, 11,000 km from Earth, managed to deflect the Dimorphos asteroid from its trajectory at a speed of more than 22,000 km/h. The goal? Test vehicles that protect Earth and humanity. With an air of mock Armageddon, this iconic mission marks the beginning of a new era and a paradigm shift for space sector 2.0. This is the result of NASA’s collaboration with private space companies, SpaceX, which launched the kamikaze spacecraft, and Redwire, which provided the first rolling solar panels used in deep space.

The effects of this deflection test of a near-Earth object – one that could cross Earth’s trajectory – will be analyzed by the European Space Agency’s Hera mission, planned for 2024. The risks of orbital debris collisions are attracting increasing attention. , especially from the US. The Federal Communications Commission has just voted in favor of adopting new rules for managing space debris in low orbit. The thousands of debris generated by Russia’s anti-satellite ballistic tests (ASAT) in early 2022 were certainly not neutral in this important context.

Make the space safer, cleaner

Making space 2.0 safe is a big challenge for the future of space exploration, although a new proposal from the European Space Agency, of which Switzerland’s Marco Siber is a part, has just been released. Because the risks of space missions would increase significantly with the increase of space debris. Currently, hundreds of thousands of pieces of space debris are circulating around the Earth. More than 27,000 objects in orbit are currently considered space debris by NASA, and 400,000 by Onera, the French aerospace research center. It is estimated that there are half a million pieces of debris the size of a coin and more than 100 million smaller pieces that current technologies cannot yet detect. An important issue that Space 2.0 entrepreneurs are seizing is to anticipate and develop cleanup strategies for space debris entering the atmosphere.

Solutions are emerging to better identify debris through more accurate sensors through artificial intelligence, data sharing and connectivity. To manage end-of-life satellites and clean up space, many startups are positioning themselves to equip space assets with robotic systems or build more robust and autonomous satellites. Japanese startup Astroscale has thus developed a module for satellite operators that can catch end-of-life satellites before they turn into debris. LeoLabs, or Italian company D-Orbit, aims to map space to clear it. More and more solutions are emerging, such as Benchmark Space Systems, which provides anti-collision kit designed to help small satellites avoid debris and other spacecraft and exit orbit.

Planetary defense strategies, experts say, are aimed at preventing Earth from knowing the fate of dinosaurs that were wiped out by an asteroid strike. Like Hollywood movies, but without Bruce Willis in the driver’s seat, it was made possible by strategies, visionary entrepreneurs, and cutting-edge technologies that paved a safer and more fertile ground for space exploration.

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