After littering space with tonnes of junk, USA becomes the first nation to ban destructive satellite tests

After littering space with tonnes of junk, USA becomes the first nation to ban destructive satellite tests
  • The United States becomes the first nation to end destructive satellite tests in space.
  • Today, there are more than 4000 space satellites creating space crowding and a threat to space security.
  • Outer-space sustainability has become one of the biggest challenges.
Vice president Kamala Harris on Monday announced that the United States will no longer conduct destructive tests of satellites in space. She also called on other nations to agree to set rules for responsible behaviour in space as Earth's orbit is becoming increasingly congested with debris.

The announcement came during her visit to Vandenberg Air Force Base on Monday and a few months after Russia blew up a dead satellite with a missile that created massive debris staying in orbit for years. At that time, Kamala Harris was serving as a chair of the National Space Council and she condemned Russia's step by saying, “by blasting debris across space, this irresponsible act endangered the satellites of other nations, as well as astronauts in the International Space Station.”

Russia and USA are among the largest contributors to space junk. As of 2017, 24,193 junk objects orbiting the earth were recorded. Out of which, 15,117 were from Russia and 6144 were from the US. In the last five years, these tests have only been increased and now posing a threat to space stations, satellites and even the astronauts.

According to the Secure World Foundation, in 2007, China blew up a satellite that created 3000 pieces of debris in space. In 2019, India also destroyed a satellite creating space debris and it was condemned by the international community. According to Secure World Foundation, the United States conducted destructive anti-satellite tests in 1985, 1986, and 2008.

With this pledge, Unites States becomes the first nation that will no longer conduct anti-satellite destruction tests.


The director of program planning at the Secure World Foundation, Brian Weeden said “making that commitment and calling out other countries to follow through is a significant step forward.” He also added this step will put pressure on China and Russia and other countries to follow the same suit.

Sustainability challenges of Outer Space
Thousand of satellites orbit around the earth at different altitudes to provide scientific data to benefit people across the globe. Some satellites help in space exploration and others in monitoring the earth’s environment to assist in disaster management.

In 1990, there were 500 active satellites orbiting the earth, and today there are more than 4000 active satellites. The rapid increase in the number of satellites poses challenges to the future of space sustainability.

Space junk is the biggest challenge for outer space sustainability. According to European Space Agency, the debris around the earth's orbit has summed up to 8800 tonnes as of December 2020. Orbital crowding is also a major challenge for sustainable outer space. Orbital crowding with satellites and space junk can cause both physical congestion and electromagnetic interference, hindering communication and security in space.

With the increased number of satellites and tonnes of debris, space sustainability and security becomes the biggest challenge.

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