Space. Orbital Dance, the video game launched by CNES to raise awareness about space debris

CNES launches an “Orbital Dance” game to raise awareness of the issue of space debris. With more than 32,000 objects larger than 10 centimeters in orbit, space debris is a real nuisance.

Since the beginning of the space adventure 65 years ago, tons of launch vehicles, vehicles and instruments have been sent into space. Without really knowing what to do with them once they reached the end of their lives.

This waste is still in circulation, “these are non-useful, non-operational objects. These objects move at a fairly high speed, between 7 to 8 kilometers per second, and therefore can create a risk of collision with operational satellites”says Pierre Omaly, waste expert at CNES and head of the project for sustainable space technology.

If two pieces of debris collide, they collide at more than 14 kilometers per second. It releases colossal energies that will rebuild masses of small debris and gradually cause an accumulation of small debris.

Pierre Omaly, waste expert and project manager for sustainable space technology at CNES

Their numbers continue to grow, explosions and collisions in space have created hundreds of thousands of dangerous debris fragments. It is estimated today that there are more than:

  • 32,000 objects larger than 10 centimeters in orbit around the Earth
  • 1 million objects from 1 to 10 centimeters
  • more than 170 million objects smaller than 1 centimeter

“These are statistical models that are put in place, so we think we know almost all the objects that we’ve put into space. The launches, we know them all. We know what satellites are every rocket that’s going to sent”, explains Pierre Omaly.

We have collision models. So when there are two objects of a certain mass that collide, they will statistically generate a certain amount of debris.

Pierre Omaly, waste expert and project manager for sustainable space technology at CNES

“When you do these statistical calculations and add up all these collisions and phenomena over the course of space history, it adds up to impressive numbers. It’s just statistics, but it adds up.”confirms Pierre Omaly.

CNES, National Center for Space Studies launches “Orbital Dance”. One more game “trying to make people aware of this problem of waste. This game explains the problems and above all it explains the solutions”emphasizes Pierre Omaly.

Orbital Dance is about promoting the technological solutions that we develop in the real world and that we get to put into the game for people to use.

Pierre Omaly, waste expert and project manager for sustainable space technology at CNES

In the game you have to avoid dirt and to avoid them you can use new technologies that allow you to be more efficient. Avoid but also reduce by knowing how to detect them or be able to make an anti-collision maneuver. To reduce them, “You can put passivation systems in your vehicles that will pierce the tanks, 3D printed multi-layer armor protection systems, deorbiting veils or even low power GPS systems”, reveals Pierre Omaly.

We hope that thanks to the playful universe and the gamification of the problem, we will have innovative ideas that could come out of a community of players.

Pierre Omaly, waste expert and project manager for sustainable space technology at CNES

“Today, People should be aware that using a phone, a GPS, a satellite TV, well that uses space. The space, if we want to continue to use it, we need to control the waste”, insists the expert.

Pierre Omaly believes that this is a global problem, “when we look at the stock of objects that are up there, what causes us problems is linked to 98% to the Americans, the Chinese and the Russians. And we the French, we are fourth with only 3% of the objects”.

The largest pieces of debris today are those put into orbit in the 1970s and up until the 1990s. One of the largest pieces of space junk currently in orbit is the failed satellite Envisionedwhich weighs eight tons and can continue to orbit the Earth for 150 years.

Dr. Stuart Grey, a senior lecturer at University College London and member of the Space Geodesy and Navigation Laboratory, created this visualization to show how the amount of space debris has increased between 1957 and 2015, using data on the precise location of each piece of waste (https://www.space-track.org).

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