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How space debris created the world’s largest garbage dump

bigthink.com

Space as a garbage dump

For many ages, space was pristine. In 1957, the Soviet Union launched Sputnik 1 into orbit, but when the batteries died, the aluminium satellite marked the end of an unspoiled era.

According to NASA, the space above Earth is now the world's largest garbage dump. It consis...

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A brief inventory of space debris includes: a spatula, a glove, a mirror, a bag with astronaut tools, spent rocket stages, bolts, paint chips, defunct spacecraft, and around 3,000 dead satellites, orbiting Earth at speeds of roughly 18,000 m.p.h.

Most space junk is moving in low Earth orbi...

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Some space rubble is natural micrometeoroids, like the fragment that struck the starboard payload bay radiator of the STS-115 flight in 2006.

Even tiny, untrackable micro-debris can become a problem. A paint fragment chipped off a spacecraft can move at nearly ten times the speed of a bull...

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A problem NASA scientist Donald J. Kessler outlined in 1978: As space becomes more packed with spacecraft and debris, collisions become more likely, creating more debris that could trigger a chain reaction of collisions. There is a possibility that near-Earth space can become a shrapnel field.

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China and companies like SpaceX, OneWeb, and Amazon aim to launch thousands of satellites into lower Earth orbits to reduce the time it takes for a signal to travel from the satellite to the user.

But some space experts are concerned that satellite mega-constellati...

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At this point, no international rules are governing the deployment and management of satellite mega-constellations.

The Inter-Agency Space Debris Coordination Committee comprises 13 of the world's space agencies. It aims to prevent on-orbit break-ups and to remove old spacecraft from the d...

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Cleaning up space will be complex and expensive and requires a coordinated, international effort. The most agreed on strategy among space organizations are to get rid of the big stuff first.

To clean up low Earth orbit, space organizations have proposed multiple solutions. The most promisi...

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