"There’s an awful lot of stuff orbiting Earth, with more arriving all the time.
More than 29,000 satellites, pieces of rockets and other bits of debris large
enough to track from the ground are circling the planet. Smaller items number
in the millions. The Californian company SpaceX alone has launched some 1,700
satellites over the past 2 years as part of its Starlink network, which
provides broadband Internet, with thousands more planned. Other companies are
also planning such megaconstellations, and more and more nations are launching
or plan to launch satellites.
This growing congestion is drastically increasing the risk of collisions in
space. At the European Space Agency’s operations centre in Darmstadt, Germany,
which controls key research spacecraft, hundreds of e-mail alerts arrive each
day warning of potential space smash-ups. And, in May, NASA engineers spotted a
5-millimetre-wide hole in one of the International Space Station’s robotic
arms, created by a collision with an unknown piece of space junk.
These close calls highlight not only the need to be more thoughtful about what
we put into space, but also that it’s well past time the global space community
developed a sustainable framework for managing space traffic. Such a move would
benefit both the scientists who rely on observations from orbit and humanity as
a whole, because satellites are crucial for modern communication and
Via Diane A.
*** Xanni ***
Chief Scientist, Xanadu
Partner, Glass Wings
Manager, Serious Cybernetics