With space junk posing increasing threat to Indian assets in space, the Indian Space Research Organisation (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.
- 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.