India has 111 payloads and 105 space debris objects orbiting the earth as tracked and catalogued by USSPACECOM, Union minister Jitendra Singh told the Rajya Sabha on Thursday.
In a written reply, Mr Singh said all orbiting debris will have an impact on the sustainability of outer space and future missions and added that ISRO has been carrying out many studies on the impacts of growing space debris on the space environment.
Mr Singh said that the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) has carried out 21 collision avoidance manoeuvres of Indian Operational Space assets in 2022 to avoid collision threats from other space objects.
The minister said that research and studies on the potential and emerging threats from space debris are carried out by ISRO and academia since the early 1990s.
He said in 2022, ISRO System for Safe and Sustainable Operations Management (IS4OM) has been established towards more focused efforts to continually monitor the objects posing collision threats, improve the prediction of the evolution of space debris environment and concerted activities to mitigate the risk posed by space debris.
To deal with the threat of very small debris objects which are too small to be tracked, spacecraft needs to shielded against the impact risk, he said.
Spacecraft shielding-related studies and development are under progress in ISRO to improve the protection for the upcoming missions, Mr Singh said.
In reply to a separate question, Mr Singh said that the government was taking measures to augment domestic capacity for the future realisation of space tourism.
He said ISRO has also carried out a few feasibility studies for a sub-orbital space tourism mission onboard a liquid propellant stage booster.
Mr Singh said through Gaganyaan, India’s maiden human spaceflight programme, ISRO was engaged in development of various technologies, which are essential building blocks for human space missions.
The minister said that the objective of the Gaganyaan programme was the demonstration of human spaceflight capability to low earth orbit.
Future missions will be taken up after the accomplishment of Gaganyaan mission, Singh said.