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Space Debris and the Future of Space Flight
Since 1957, artificial satellites and launch vehicles have created an ever growing number of orbiting debris objects, from a few microns to several meters in size. In recent years a number of international agreements have been made to limit the growth rate of debris. However, there is no serious program to reduce the amount of existing debris. Recent developments such as the proliferation of debris from the Chinese ASAT test of 2007 and the 2009 collision of an Iridium satellite with a Russian Cosmos have raised level of urgency to actively manage the debris situation. Mitigation approaches have been pursued and many reduction techniques have been suggested. Most new spacecraft are now able to maneuver out of the way at their end of life. But, little is being done to reduce existing debris. This special and timely course attempts to explain the dangers and the options associated with the growing debris problem.