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NEW DELHI: In a significant step toward sustainable space exploration, the Indian Space Research Organisation (Isro) has pledged to achieve debris-free space missions by the end of this decade. This initiative follows a recent satellite mission that “practically left zero debris in orbit,” as said by Isro Chairman S Somanath. The mission accomplished this by lowering a spent rocket stage to burn up in Earth’s atmosphere during re-entry.
Isro plans to implement similar deorbiting techniques for all future missions to ensure they are debris-free.This commitment was highlighted during a session hosted by the Inter-Agency Space Debris Coordination Committee (IADC), emphasizing India’s growing proficiency in debris management, a Space.com report said. “Over the years, sufficient skill has been developed within Isro in dealing with topics related to debris management,” Somanath explained.
India currently maintains 54 operational spacecraft in orbit, not including inactive satellites. Last year, 13 of these were intentionally brought down to reenter Earth’s atmosphere. In February, a satellite called Cartosat-2, launched by ISRO in 2007, was deliberately lowered for a controlled reentry above the Indian Ocean, with expectations that “all major parts of the satellite were predicted to vaporize during the event.”
As per the report in Space.com, the urgency of addressing space debris is underscored by the current state of low Earth orbit, which is cluttered with approximately 30,000 objects larger than a softball and millions of smaller fragments. These pose significant risks due to potential collisions and have prompted global efforts towards responsible satellite decommissioning.
India’s proactive approach also comes in light of environmental concerns associated with satellite re-entries. Studies have shown unexpected consequences such as high levels of vaporized metals polluting the stratosphere, potentially affecting the ozone layer and altering Earth’s magnetic field. The Isro’s move towards debris-free missions is a crucial step in mitigating these impacts and setting a standard for future space operations.

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