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Space Junk Facts

On October 4th, 1957, the Soviet Union launched Sputnik, an object in orbit around the Earth that became space waste.

In our decades of space exploration, we’ve launched more than 8,593 spacecraft around the world, leaving behind 170 million pieces of debris in orbit.

Space waste in orbit can stay in orbit for centuries, but if we’re not careful, it will cause disaster collisions.

An estimated 500,000 pieces are between 0.4 inches and 4 inches across, zipping around our planet.

Most of the debris in space is in low earth orbit, where NASA’s Earth Observing System fleet and the International Space Station live.

What is Space Waste

Space waste includes a lot more than just stars and planets. It includes nonfunctional satellites, launch vehicle stages, solid-fuel rockets from space shuttles, and millions of tiny flecks of paint.

What if space debris collided with each other?

In the case of space debris, astronauts, the space station, cell phone communications, GPS, internet, coordinated airfare, satellites would be in danger.

How do we know about Space Junk

The United States Department of Defense monitors space debris using a global network of telescopes. They catalog, track, and catalog.

Facts for Kids
Facts for Kids

Can we stop sending stuff into space

Even without new launches or explosions, there’s a lot of space junk in low earth orbit.

Computer simulations suggest that space debris will increase by 1.5 times in size during the next 200 years, and debris smaller than 8 inches will increase even more.

Researchers are investigating ways to reduce space junk and remove it.

Envisat, which weighs 8 tonnes and can orbit for up to 150 years, is one of the largest pieces of space junk currently in orbit.  

What are we doing to improve the situation

JAXA, Japan’s space agency, is testing an electric space whip that stretches nearly 2,300 feet long. The weight of the whip makes it knock debris out of orbit.

There are many proposals to limit the growing debris cloud, including giant magnets, harpoons, and nets.

Are Weather Satellite in Danger

Pieces of space debris already hit a Chinese weather Satellite in March 2021.