January 6, 2020


Reducing the risks from space debris, on the ground and in orbit, entails a reduction in the amount of debris and the design of space objects made of materials unable to withstand the thermomechanical stresses linked to atmospheric re-entry.

The amount of space debris in orbit can be reduced by not generating new debris or by reducing the orbital lifetime of space objects which are already a part of the environment.

To avoid generating new debris, applying a few basic prevention principles such as the fluid and thermal passivation of the space vehicle at the end of its mission, will reduce the probability of it exploding.

Another means of avoiding the creation of new debris in Earth orbit is the operational management of the collision risks. Although these only concern a very small number of objects in orbit, given that 5% of space objects are operational satellites, fragmentation by collision with one of these objects can generate several thousand additional pieces of debris.

As regards limiting the lifetime in orbit of space objects, this can be done by de-orbiting satellites after the end of their operational life (the 25 year rule) and by de-orbiting space debris. This can be achieved either by equipping new satellites with “De-orbiting kits”, enabling their orbital lifetime after the end of their mission to be drastically reduced, or by means of in-orbit capture of space debris for subsequent de-orbiting. The legal and technical feasibility of this solution has yet to be proven.