Increasing number of satellites could lead to massive space junk

There are already about 4,000 intact spacecraft living in orbit around Earth, only 1,800 of which are operational. If this number of satellites increase in our orbit, then it could make space a more dangerous and congested place, and maybe we could be trapped in the satellite debris forever. The number of satellite collisions will increase and these accidents can create multiple pieces of debris zooming through space at thousands of miles per hour. And these fragments can threaten other spacecraft in orbit, causing further crashes and damage.

Multiple aerospace companies, including SpaceX and OneWeb, have vowed to someday launch thousands of satellites into low Earth orbit. If all these constellations are successfully launched around the same time, the number of operational satellites in orbit would quadruple, raising the risk of catastrophic and cascading satellite collisions. In order to prevent this risk scientist at NASA argue to take the satellites out of orbit as soon as they have completed their mission time in space.

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That entails lowering the altitude of the satellite so that it quickly succumbs to Earth’s gravity and burns up during the descent through our planet’s atmosphere. This should prevent the number of collisions between satellites from increasing over the next few centuries.

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“Because of the number of spacecraft involved in large constellations, [these companies] need to pay attention to certain areas to make sure they do not pollute the near-Earth space environment with significant orbital debris,” says Jer-Chyi Liou, the chief scientist of orbital debris at NASA who helmed the new study.”

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