WASHINGTON D.C. – A U.S. Defense Department report says tests of space-based missile interceptors that could take place beginning in 2012 will create debris that could threaten the international space station, space shuttles and satellites in low Earth orbit.
However, to the study, conducted by the Missile Defense Agency (MDA), the threat is not severe because the debris likely would re-enter the atmosphere before colliding with anything, and NASA could move the international space station to avoid debris if necessary.
The MDA posted the “Draft Programmatic Environment Impact Statement” for national missile defense systems on its Internet site Aug. 9.
Most activities associated with land-based missile interceptors have no significant impact on the environment, or could be handled relatively easily by following safety procedures for handling hazardous waste and reducing harmful emissions in the air, the review concluded.
The MDA plans to begin testing space-based missile interceptors that rely on kinetic energy to destroy their targets around 2012. Debris from these tests is unlikely to cause problems on Earth, as it would probably burn up upon re-entering the atmosphere or land in an ocean or otherwise unpopulated area, the report said.
However, even tiny particles generated by collisions in space could pose a threat to people and spacecraft in orbit, the report said. Many of these particles would be too small for the Pentagon