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  • Writer's picturePriyanshu Goti

PSLV Goes Green: Launches Satellites AND Becomes Space Garbage's Worst Nightmare!


ISRO's PSLV Achieves Zero Orbital Debris Mission: A Step Forward for Sustainable Space Exploration

The Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) has accomplished a remarkable feat with its PSLV Orbital Experimental Module-3 (POEM-3) mission. Launched in January 2024, the mission concluded on March 21st with POEM-3 re-entering Earth's atmosphere, disintegrating completely, and leaving practically zero debris in orbit. This marks a significant achievement in mitigating the growing problem of orbital debris, a major concern for the future of space exploration.

PSLV Transformed: From Launch Vehicle to Space Lab

The PSLV (Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle) is a workhorse for ISRO, responsible for numerous successful satellite launches. But the POEM-3 mission showcased a unique innovation. After deploying its intended payloads into their orbits, the PSLV's upper stage wasn't discarded. Instead, it was transformed into a functional platform – POEM-3 – complete with three-axis stabilization. This platform carried an additional nine payloads for scientific experiments and technological demonstrations.

Mission Accomplished: Leaving No Trace Behind

Following the completion of its research objectives, POEM-3 was maneuvered from its initial high orbit (around 650 km) to a lower one (around 350 km). This lower orbit facilitated a quicker natural re-entry into the Earth's atmosphere. Additionally, the POEM-3 team ensured all residual propellants were safely expended, minimizing the risk of any accidental break-up that could create debris.

A Milestone for Sustainable Spaceflight

The success of the POEM-3 mission demonstrates ISRO's commitment to responsible space exploration. Orbital debris is a growing threat, with thousands of defunct satellites and fragments posing a collision risk to operational spacecraft. ISRO's innovative approach of utilizing the launch vehicle itself and ensuring its safe re-entry sets a commendable example for other space agencies.

The Road Ahead

The POEM mission paves the way for future advancements in space debris mitigation. As space activities increase, so will the need for such responsible practices. ISRO's accomplishment serves as an inspiration for the global space community to adopt similar measures to ensure the long-term sustainability of space exploration.

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