After the launching of Sputnik 1, the world’s first satellite, numerous objects have gone into space and left behind in Earth’s orbit.
It’s difficult to tell exactly how many chunks of space debris are out there. However, estimates show that there could be millions.
Dealing with space waste isn’t as easy as collecting regular junk. It’s a major headache finding where each piece of debris positions. It’s not just about the number but also the distance of each piece from one another.
One space junk can be hundreds or thousands of kilometres away from other pieces. Besides, they’re in motion with unpredictable movements resulting from various gravitational factors, making it more difficult to track them.
Let’s dig more into these pieces of rubbish in space and find out facts and details about them.
What is Space Junk?
According to NASA, space junk refers to the debris found in space that encompasses natural and artificial particles.
On the other hand, the Inter-Agency Space Debris Coordination Committee narrowed its definition as any man-made object orbiting the Earth that doesn’t serve a useful purpose.
It’s essentially those objects left behind by human activities and explorations. These include rockets, old satellites, waste from astronaut suits, and other abandoned debris during spacewalks.
How Problematic is Earth’s Space Debris?
Debris smaller than marble or even a piece of a spacesuit may not seem harmful. However, things in space are different, and anything can go wrong, leading to disastrous situations.
Existing pieces of debris may collide and destroy other functional satellites. Since satellites are increasingly vital for human activities, major collisions and damages can lead to global communication problems.
Moreover, when satellites and other debris crash into each other, they create more space junk. Some pieces may fall back to Earth and burn up before reaching the ground.
10 Space Junk Facts
There’s a lot more in space than planets and stars. Humans have gone a long way leaving various things in Earth’s orbit.
As we go on with our lives, it’s essential to know some important details about these pieces of debris. So, we’ve listed ten of the most interesting facts about space junk:
- Space junk cleanup is an expensive endeavour. However, doing so is extremely valuable. With over 3,000 dead satellites in Earth’s orbit, exploring the recycling options could open many opportunities.
- Australia’s Space Environment Research Centre estimated 30,000 softball-sized or larger chunks of space junk in orbit, 500,000 marble-sized pieces, and 170 million smaller debris.
- As long as a space junk is above the Earth’s atmosphere, it can stay in orbit for many centuries and remain even after millions of years.
- A piece of the American Vanguard 1 launched in 1958 is by far the biggest and oldest remaining artificial debris in space.
- A falling space debris can speed up to 4.4 to 5 miles per second, roughly seven times faster than a bullet.
- The two largest contributors of space junk are Russia and the U.S., with respectively 6,512 and 6,262 objects in orbit.
- Space debris hitting other pieces could increase the accumulation of junk in space, with possibly destructive effects.
- The failure of one satellite in 1998 has stopped over 90% of all the pagers in the world from working. This event is a clear example of the consequences of space debris collisions.
- The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration estimated that an average of 200 to 400 tracked space debris enter the Earth’s atmosphere annually.
- Most space debris that reenters the Earth’s atmosphere burns up, but others don’t. This situation isn’t something you should worry about, as the chance of getting hit by a piece of falling space junk is 10 million times smaller than being struck by lightning.
Tackling Space Junk Problem
To note, scientists have made efforts to track space debris and avoid collisions. Many satellites now apply comprehensive strategies for debris avoidance to expand protection.
The new laser tracking technology developed by Australian scientists traces the orbits of space junk more accurately than previous attempts. Accuracy in tracking debris is essential to prevent the increase of space junk due to disastrous collisions.
On the other hand, international guidelines recommend that the removal of spacecraft from Low-Earth orbit (LEO) should be done within 25 years after the craft’s mission. However, only 60% of satellite operators have done so.
Even with such regulations, space junk cleanup still has a lot of work needed. Consistent efforts from various sectors are required to create better solutions for Earth’s space debris.
For more facts and information about space junk or other waste materials, get in touch with Aussie Junk anytime. We make excellent efforts to help you with any rubbish concerns. Call us today!