DR. SKY BLOG

Millions of pieces of space junk are a growing problem in the sky

Apr 28, 2021, 2:00 PM
(Public Domain Image/ESA)...
(Public Domain Image/ESA)
(Public Domain Image/ESA)

The world above our heads is becoming a celestial nightmare for the entire world.

The skies above were changed back in 1957 with the launch of the first artificial satellite known as Sputnik 1.

The world was amazed at this tiny object, which orbited the Earth once every 90 minutes or so.

Since then and only some 64 years later, we are told that there are well over 2,500 satellites in space, of which there are nearly 2,000 of these in low Earth orbit.

That does not count the remainder of the fleet, which has nearly 29,000 objects which are larger than 10 centimeters and around 670,000 pieces of debris larger than 1 centimeter.

The really amazing statistic is that there may be well over 670,000,000 pieces of space debris larger than 1 millimeter.

If a 10-centimeter object were to hit a satellite in orbit, it would be simply catastrophic!

A 1-centimeter piece of space junk has the ability to penetrate the space station shields.

The last documented collision of two satellites in space occurred in 2009, when a Russian Cosmos 2251 collided in orbit with an Iridium 33 satellite high over Siberia.

I am certain that there are others, which may not have a lot of data reported.

The latest launch of four astronauts to the International Space Station on the new Crew Dragon capsule may have been on a course to run into some of this space junk.

Some say that this was just a false alarm, but there simply are too many risks involved with the growing threat of space junk.

To give you a better idea of just how many objects are in orbit around the Earth at this time, I suggest that you look deeply here at just how populated the area of space is around the planet.

There is also the problem of warfare moving into the realm of space too.

Russia, China and the U.S. are developing space based weapons to counter the threats from other nation’s satellites.

This will become another area of concern, as the destruction of satellites in space will only increase the amount of space junk.

With some 3,500 active satellites in orbit, the remainder of these objects is probably space junk.

Recently, the Russian military tested a new direct-ascent anti-satellite missile.

This missile has the ability to destroy satellites in orbit.

Learn more here.

Here is an image of what the space weapon may look like.

There are no quick fixes to the growing population of spacecraft and space junk in orbit.

Some say that the next generation of satellites should be made of “wood,” as they would present a much lower threat of damage to other satellites in orbit and burn up, upon reentry.

To print your own monthly star chart, click here.

To view satellites/dates/times of passage, click here.

Listen to the Dr. Sky Show on KTAR News 92.3 FM every Saturday at 3 a.m.

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Millions of pieces of space junk are a growing problem in the sky