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NETRA Project and Space Debris


Project NETRA UPSC: Relevance

  • GS 3: Awareness in the fields of IT, Space.


Project NETRA: Context

  • Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) is building up its orbital debris tracking capability by deploying new radars and optical telescopes under the Network for Space Objects Tracking and Analysis (NETRA) project.


Project NETRA ISRO: Key point(s)

  • The government has given the go-ahead for the deployment of the radar, which will be capable of detecting and tracking objects 10 cm and above in size.

नेत्रा परियोजना तथा अंतरिक्ष मलबे

Project NETRA: Why needed?

  • The space junk is increasing the threat to Indian assets in space.
  • Last year, the space agency monitored 4,382 events in LEO (Low Earth Orbit) and 3,148 events in the geostationary orbit where space objects closely approached Indian assets.
  • For protecting its space assets, ISRO was forced to perform 19 collision avoidance manoeuvres (CAM) in 2021, of which 14 were in Low Earth Orbit (LEO) and five in the geostationary orbit.
  • The number of CAMs jumped from just three in 2015 to 12 in 2020 and 19 in 2021.
  • Globally, 2021 saw the highest space object-to-launch ratio.
  • The volume of debris is likely to go up in the coming years with the increase in space missions globally.


NETRA Project and Space Debris_40.1


What is NETRA project?

  • NETRA project is an early warning system in space to detect debris and other hazards to Indian satellites.
  • Under NETRA, ISRO plans to put up many observational facilities: connected radars, telescopes; data processing units and a control centre.
  • They can, among others, spot, track and catalogue objects as small as 10 cm, up to a range of 3,400 km and equal to a space orbit of around 2,000 km.
  • NETRA’s ultimate objective is to capture the GEO, or geostationary orbit, scene at 36,000 km where communication satellites operate.


NETRA Project and Space Debris_50.1


What is space debris?

  • Space junk or debris consist of spent rocket stages, dead satellites, fragments of space objects and debris resulting from ASAT (Anti-satellite weapons).
  • Moving at an average speed of 27,000 kmph in LEO, these objects pose a very real threat as collisions involving even centimetre-sized fragments can be lethal to satellites.


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