Friday 1st December 2023 Space debris

Hazards, Situational awareness and responsible use of space

Dr Philippe Blondel

Friday 1st December 2023 7.30 pm in the BRLSI, can be attended either in the BRLSI or remotely on Zoom

Lecture 4 of 4 on the theme ‘Conserving the Planet’ in association with the Herschel Museum of Astronomy

Image shows the distribution of space debris in orbit © ESA

Near-Earth space is littered with hundreds of millions of man-made objects rushing at very high speeds and risking collisions with each other and with every space platform. The new constellations of thousands of satellites will be at risk; they also increase the risks, through chain collisions, accidental deorbiting and other accidents. In 2021, the G7 Summit committed to “safe and sustainable use of space”. The UN Space2030 agenda recommended “enhanced information exchange on space objects”. But how do we detect objects mostly smaller than a centimetre, fast enough and far enough? This talk will present the current situation, from space collisions to intentional creation of space debris, the approaching Kessler Syndrome and the geopolitical context, in Earth and beyond. Drawing on the speaker’s direct experience, we will then look at technological solutions and policy implications.

Philippe Blondel is a remote sensing expert. Born and educated in France, his PhD was about the radar imaging of the planet Venus. He then worked in the US and the UK, mapping the oceans and designing new instruments. He enjoys seeing the applications of his research, from new commercial products to international standards, from de-risking marine renewable energies to addressing the effects of climate change on Arctic environments. Philippe edited “Solar System Update” (Springer, 2006) and he teaches planetary physics at the University of Bath. He co-authored the White Paper on “In-Space Utilisation of Asteroids” (2017) and experimented and published on imaging space debris and small targets (2018, 2019). His Knowledge Transfer activities include working with industry and participating to the UK Parliament Office of Science and Technology on “Defence of space-based assets.

A video recording of the lecture is freely available here.