The environmental effects of more and more rocket stages that drop into the oceans of the world containing toxic fuel are being studied by a global agency that sets rules for the seas. Accordingly, space debris might cause toxic splashdowns, affecting the oceans’ ecosystems.
The concern of the International Maritime Organization is more intense after Inuit groups expressed anger over the fact that hunters depend on the Canadian waters for food, but is affected by the Russian launch stages splashing down in them. Research that detailed a satellite industry growing worldwide have followed this no matter what their consequences are.
“Right now we are just starting an information-gathering phase,” said a senior Environment Canada official, Linda Porebski, who heads one of the scientific bodies of the maritime group, which has just met in Vancouver. “We are generally aware there is an increasing number of launches, and that there are booster rockets that fall, and that there is potentially fuel on board,” she added.
Researchers are studying the possibility of space debris to cause toxic splashdowns in the world’s oceans
A Greenpeace-funded biologist at the University of Exeter in the United Kingdom, David Santillo, said that the industry is expanding rapidly, so general awareness is all there.
“We can’t get very far in terms of knowing exactly what’s going to be launched, how much of that is going to come down in the oceans, what material it’s going to be carrying, how much excess fuel,” Santillo said.
It is not easy to get information. In 2017, the issue began being dug up by Greenpeace after Inuit concerns that a stage would drop in the North Water Polynya one of the most biologically productive areas of the Arctic from a rocket launched by Russia that carries a satellite owned by the European Space Agency.
Academic research found at least 11 such splashdowns since 2002. All of those rockets were fuelled by highly toxic hydrazine. At least 11 such splashdowns were found by academic research since 2002. Highly toxic hydrazine would be contained in all those rockets.