Watch out for Space Junk

4-8-nrc-evaluates-nasas-orbital-debris-programs

Not content with polluting our own planet we have been steadily filling up the space around it. There have been >5,000 launches since we started exploring space. The payloads on these rockets have resulted in increasing congestion and collisions leading to debris and ‘space junk’. 

The International Space Station (ISS) has to undertake an increasing number of avoidance manoeuvres to protect the astronauts stationed there.

These numbers are mind boggling:

  • 500,000 pieces of space debris between 1 and 10cm
  • More than 21,000 pieces larger than 10cm
  • More than 100 million pieces below 1cm
  • Most orbital debris is within 2,000km of the Earth’s surface
  • The greatest concentrations of debris are found at 750-800km
  • Travel up to speeds of 28,163 km/h (17,500 mph)
  • Only 7% of space junk is functional

The ‘Space Age’ has given us technology gains in our everyday lives that we now take for granted. But as we now explore further and further into space what are the consequences?