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ISRO to step up tracking of space debris

  • Category
    Science & Technology
  • Published
    31st Mar, 2022

Context

ISRO is building up its orbital debris tracking capability by deploying new radars and optical telescopes under the Network for Space Objects Tracking and Analysis (NETRA) project.

About

Tracking of space debris:

  • A space debris tracking radar with a range of 1,500 km and an optical telescope will be inducted as part of establishing an effective surveillance and tracking network under NETRA.
  • The government has given the go-ahead for the deployment of the radar, which will be capable of detecting and tracking objects 10 cm and above in size, he said.
  • It will be indigenously designed and built.
  • Radars and optical telescopes are vital ground-based facilities for keeping an eye on space objects, including orbital junk.
  • Space junk or debris consists of spent rocket stages, dead satellites, fragments of space objects and debris resulting from ASAT.
  • Hurtling at an average speed of 27,000 kmph in LEO, these objects pose a very real threat as collisions involving even centimetre-sized fragments can be lethal to satellites.
  • For protecting its space assets, ISRO was forced to perform 19 collision avoidance manoeuvres (CAM) in 2021, of which 14 were in Low Earth Orbit (LEO) and five in the geostationary orbit.
    • The number of CAMs jumped from just three in 2015 to 12 in 2020 and 19 in 2021.

About Network for Space Objects Tracking and Analysis (NETRA) project:

  • Project NETRA is an early warning system in space to detect debris and other hazards to Indian satellites.
  • ISRO SSA Control Centre, “NETRA”, is now set up within the ISTRAC campus at Peenya, Bangalore.
  • The project is estimated to cost of Rs. 400 crores.
  • NETRA’s eventual goal is to capture the GEO, or geostationary orbit, the scene at 36,000 km where communication satellites operate.
  • Under NETRA, or Network for space object Tracking and Analysis, the ISRO plans to put up many observational facilities:
  • connected radars, telescopes
  • data processing units
  • a control centre
  • They can, among others, spot, track and catalogue objects as small as 10 cm, up to a range of 3,400 km and equal to a space orbit of around 2,000 km.
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