Launch of 104 satellites in one go will take India and its space research organization ISRO into the record books and while the nation is still celebrating the success, there is a harsh reality that is waiting to unfold.
According to G Madhavan Nair, the former chairman of the country’s premier space body, things aren’t so bright for such record breaking missions as there are some hidden dangers that India would need to deal with sooner or later. Nair was hinting at the large number of nano satellites that were launched alongside bigger satellites and placed in orbits where India’s Earth Observation satellites are also placed.
The nano satellites were placed into a polar orbit 506 km above the Earth by the PSLV in a flawless mission. Nair pointed out that these satellites were placed in the same region of space where India’s Earth observation satellites are or will be in future.
With a short usability and operational period, these nano satellites are a danger to bigger satellites that are currently orbiting or will orbit in future. The nano-satellites effectively become space junk after their operational life is over and continue to remain in orbit posing danger to other satellites.
“The debris that these nano-satellites will leave after their brief existence in space are potential source of damage to us. Safety of our satellites is more important,” Nair maintained. He cautioned that ISRO should carefully weigh a few million dollars of commercial gain from launching foreign nano-satellites into 500-km orbits against the potential harm to the present and future Earth observation satellites close to their lanes.
He also noted that in case of a future collision between the debris from any of these nano-satellites and a working satellite belonging to another country, India will have to pay for the damages.
Nair says that he has doubts regarding such missions and even if they are launched, the nano satellites should be placed in lower orbits to ensure that the space junk left behind doesn’t collide with other satellites but instead fall towards Earth because of our planet’s gravity. Earth’s pull will bring the space junk into our atmosphere, where the non-operational nano satellites will burn up and pose no danger to other satellites.