The effects of Space Junk
Space debris is a growing problem in many orbital regimes despite international debris mitigation guidelines and policies. The NASA image below illustrates the problem in low Earth orbit. The recent collision of an operational Iridium satellite and a defunct Russian satellite underscores the need for an ability to safely de-orbit large objects from popular, congested orbital regions. Currently, there are many hundreds of old spacecraft and rocket bodies orbiting the Earth at the same altitudes as operating spacecraft. As these abandoned objects continue moving through space, collisions with other objects create a shotgun effect of new debris objects, each of which could kill an operating spacecraft. Orbital debris – or space junk – refers to all these large orbiting objects as well as the cloud of smaller objects due to explosions of these systems and collisions with other objects. Even if we do nothing, the problem will get worse for centuries to come. But it’s a difficult problem to solve.