Dr. Jah Interviewed by VICE Motherboard
Aug 24, 2021 | Space Security, Safety, and Sustainability
Dr. Moriba Jah, Associate Professor of Aerospace Engineering and Engineering Mechanics at UT and Program Lead of the Strauss Center’s Space Security, Safety, and Sustainability Program, was recently featured in a VICE Motherboard episode on space environmentalism and its role in preventing collisions in orbit. Dr. Jah began by explaining the basics of space junk, providing an overview of the anthropogenic space object population and describing the terrestrial benefits we derive from space operations. Dr. Jah also described what he has termed “super-spreader events”—incidents when a spent rocket body or another large piece of debris breaks into thousands of smaller fragments. He then discussed strategies for de-orbiting objects in space, highlighting the difference between debris in low earth orbit and debris in higher orbits.
Dr. Jah also explained the concept of orbital carrying capacity, noting that the oversaturation of certain bands of orbit has made them more difficult to navigate, if not unusable. One way to avoid this tragedy of the commons scenario, he noted, would be translating the International Telecommunication Union’s frequency band model to orbital carrying capacity. Dr. Jah also discussed different technologies which can be used to carry out active debris removal efforts, including ground-based lasers which can nudge orbital debris towards earth so that it will burn up upon re-entry into Earth’s atmosphere. While expressing optimism about some of these new technologies, Dr. Jah also noted the importance of accepting that space will never be entirely free of debris: while some remediation is certainly possible, a level of “filth” is inevitable. Listen to the full interview here.