‘Space Junk’: A Growing Problem Ireland’s Helping to Solve

This 32 metre satellite dish based in Midleton Co Cork, will be used to track and monitor dangerous ‘space junk’ (Source: National Space Centre)

Since the launch of the the world’s first satellite, Sputnik, by the Soviet Union in 1957, there have been an estimated 600,000 pieces of space debris, of varying sizes, transported and dumped in space by mankind.

These pieces of ‘space junk’ no longer serve any useful purpose, but they have the potential to cause serious damage to the orbiting International Space Station, and its crew, and represent a hazard to any future space travellers.

There are thousands of no longer used spy satellites orbiting in the Earth’s atmosphere, as well as tiny pieces of paint or pieces of metal that have fallen off spacecraft of varying kinds over the past five decades or so.

Even small pieces of space junk have the potential to cause huge damage should they impact on the Space Station, or future spacecraft, as they are travelling at thousands of miles per hour.

In order to make space safer for mankind to explore, it is important that all space debris is, in the first instance, tracked and monitored, and ultimately cleaned up.

An Irish company, called the National Space Centre, based in Midleton, has signed a joint agreement with a number of Russian companies to monitor and track space debris.

This will be done using its 32-metre satellite dish, which was built in 1984 to transfer telephone calls between Ireland and the USA.

LISTENInterview with Rory Fitzpatrick, CEO National Space Centre

This interview was broadcast on Science Spinning on 103.2 Dublin City FM on 15.12.2011

WATCH: Segment below was broadcast on Elev8, RTE 2 Television 02-05-2012