As the advancement of technology, scientists discovered that space junk is a problem in the galaxy. It will always exist as long as humans are still exploring space. Thousands of dead satellites orbit the globe, along with bits of debris from all the rockets humans have fired throughout the years, making junk space become a serious problem. Collisions or anti-satellite tests in orbit produce some space debris. When two spacecraft collide, hundreds of new fragments are created, resulting in a large amount of new debris that may cause more accidents in space.
Fortunately, space junk does not now pose a significant threat to the scientist’ exploration endeavors. Its greatest threat is to other satellites in orbit. To avoid being hit and perhaps damaged or destroyed, these spacecraft must shift out of the way of all this incoming space junk. Moreover, there are a lot more facts about space junk you should know to broaden your knowledge. Hence, we have picked the best 15 facts about space junk to answer your curiosity.
1. Space Junk Affect The Active Satellites
Active satellites and spacecraft may be endangered by space debris. It has been suggested that if the chance of collision becomes too great, Earth orbit may become inaccessible. Therefore, collisions with operating spacecraft are the main issue. Any piece of debris larger than 1cm in diameter can cause a catastrophic hit with an average impact speed of 10km/s.
In fact, the density of the debris also may increase to the point where it interferes with our capacity to use weather satellites. Furthermore, substantial space debris objects, such as abandoned satellites, rocket bodies, or large portions thereof, that reenter the atmosphere in an uncontrolled manner can survive reentry and reach the Earth’s surface, posing a threat to the terrestrial population.
2. Destroying China’s Weather Satelite to Test New Weapon
China intentionally destroyed its defunct satellite, Fengyun-1C, in 2007 to test a new weapon with an anti-satellite missile. Over 3,000 pieces of space debris were created as a result of the test, making it the greatest amount of debris ever tracked. As of October 2016, 3,438 pieces of debris had been discovered, 571 of which had disintegrated and 2,867 of which remained in orbit nine years after the collision.
The United States and its allies have condemned China’s actions due to safety, security, and sustainability of the space. Moreover, China’s Anti-Satellite systems have improved to the point that they can now threaten any US satellite in low earth orbit, as well as possibly medium Earth orbit and geostationary orbit.
3. Space Debris is Faster Than Bullet
Space debris can travel at rates of 4.3 to 5 miles per second. That’s approximately ten times the speed of a bullet and roughly the same as getting struck by a bowling ball traveling at 300 miles per hour. The speed makes it impossible to see where the debris comes. Well, that would really cause great damage. More than 28,000 objects larger than ten centimeters are being tracked from Earth. They could break spacecraft at this size.
The hyper-velocity collision like those space debris at orbital speed isn’t similar to collisions that have been seen before. Because the objects are traveling so quickly, they pass through each other faster than shock waves can travel. The shock waves in each object’s structures shatter it into shards of differing sizes. Each one of these fragments then moves away according to the laws of orbital motion in slightly different directions, which looks like an explosion.
4. There are 60% Defunct Satellites In Space
There appear to be an infinite number of benefits and applications for space technology today. For example, satellites are becoming increasingly important for everything from internet access and precision agriculture to border security and archaeological research. In fact, there are almost 6,000 satellites orbiting our tiny planet. However, about 60% of them are defunct satellites which are considered as space junk, with the remaining 40% being functioning. The Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS) calculated that 2,666 active satellites circled the globe in April of 2020.
5. The Kessler Syndrome
A NASA scientist named Donald Kessler proposed what is now known as “Kessler Syndrome,” in which he claimed that continuous collisions of man-made objects in space may disable telecommunications and confine humanity on Earth. Moreover, the Kessler Syndrome has the potential to make some orbits inaccessible to humans as it will impact the internet, weather, and communication services. Experts are urging immediate action before junk in orbit around the Earth causes a chain reaction of collisions.
Well, this theory is now becoming a serious concern. A hole was discovered in a robotic arm aboard the International Space Station in May 2021. A renegade piece of space junk was suspected of being the perpetrator. While no astronauts were hurt, the incident has brought attention to the growing problem of orbital debris. However, with the number of satellite launches anticipated to quintuple in the next decade, space will only become more crowded. As a result, it will increase the likelihood of crashes and the dreaded Kessler syndrome.
6. The Space Junk Pollute The Earth
The accumulation of space trash poses a particularly serious threat to humanity’s future in space travel, as well as having negative consequences for the ecosystem on Earth. The issue isn’t limited to the dangers that space travel poses. A portion of the space trash in low Earth orbit will gradually lose height and burn up in Earth’s atmosphere. Nevertheless, heavier debris may occasionally collide with Earth, causing environmental damage. The Altai region in eastern Siberia, for example, is littered with debris from Russian Proton rockets launched from Kazakhstan’s Baikonur cosmodrome. This includes trash from ancient fuel tanks that contain highly dangerous fuel waste, such as unsymmetrical dimethylhydrazine (UDMH), a carcinogen that is toxic to both plants and animals.
7. Gloves Lost In Space During Gemini 4 Program
The very first American spacewalker, Ed White, let go of a glove during his first extravehicular activity on the 1965 Gemini 4 trip. It’s kicking off a long tradition of astronauts losing things in space, which also become a part of space junk. Fortunately, the missing glove was a thermal glove that could be worn over the pressure glove if the astronaut so desired.
The glove lasted nearly a month in orbit before exploding in Earth’s atmosphere. The B.F. Goodrich Company created and manufactured the gloves. They were modified by the David Clark Company for use in the Gemini program. The glove is made up of two layers: an internal rubber/Neoprene pressure bladder and a nylon upper cover-layer with a neoprene-impregnated nylon palm to keep objects from slipping out of the astronaut’s hands while in space.
8. China Turns Space Junk Into Fuel
As existing spacecraft break down into little fragments and pose a threat to both future spacecraft and manned missions, finding a technique to remove space debris from our planet is becoming increasingly critical. Chinese engineers have created an engine that is fuelled by the space junk it collects, allowing it to clean the planet without needing any fuel. It will be a debris-eating rocket-powered space-sweeper that will clear Earth’s orbits.
The debris would subsequently be vaporized by lasers or ground into powder in a ‘ball mill’ using special, abrasive spheres. After that, the powder shouldn’t be exposed to high temperatures, transforming it into plasma, a substance made up of positive ions and electrons that can be used as rocket fuel.
All the vessel would need to keep removing debris in this manner would be the debris itself. However, some detractors believe the concept is too wonderful to be true. Nonetheless, the effort is a promising start toward a viable answer, as well as a rallying cry for the aerospace sector to develop inventive solutions to the problem of space debris.
9. The US Developed “Space Fence”, The Space Junk Surveillance System
The low Earth orbit region is presently densely populated with operational satellites. Due to frequent collisions and the decay of defunct satellites and rocket launchers, the space is also littered with millions of pieces of debris.
Not only pose threat to commercial satellites, the collision of space junk will affect weather forecasting to communication services such as military assets that help monitor and protect nations around the world. Therefore, The Space Fence, created by Lockheed Martin for the US Space Force, is meant to detect, track, and classify objects as tiny as a marble in low Earth orbit.
Space Fence is a cutting-edge ground-based radar that works in conjunction with existing systems to identify significantly more junk with greater precision. The capabilities of the radar system represent a significant increase in the quantity and quality of orbital information available to assist the US national security interests in space. This radar is placed on Kwajalein Island in the Republic of the Marshall Islands. It will monitor far more resident space objects than the existing space catalog.
10. Space Junk Can Be Burnt at The Earth’s Atmosphere
The RemoveDebris satellite research project has completed a successful test of one approach to dealing with flying debris: catching it with a net. Scientists show how the hundreds of tonnes of space trash now circling our planet could be cleared. It was created at the University of Surrey and is intended to test a variety of strategies for cleaning up low Earth orbit.
The net and debris were not withdrawn during this experiment, but instead shoved into Earth’s orbit. Within a few months, they are likely to burn up in the Earth’s atmosphere. RemoveDebris will eventually deploy a membrane that will drag through the Earth’s atmosphere, bringing the entire experiment back to a fiery end.
11. The Beginning of Space Junk Database
The North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD) began a database with information about all of space debris in 1957, at the dawn of the space age. The Sputnik satellite, launched by the Soviet Union the same year, was the first piece of space junk.
Any debris left behind by people in space and hence originating on Earth is referred to as space waste. Space debris can be as big as an inactive satellite, about the size of a vehicle, or as little as a paint flake.
According to the European Space Agency (ESA), there are currently over 900,000 objects in orbit measuring between one and ten centimeters in diameter and roughly 34,000 objects larger than ten centimeters in diameter. The true risk comes from the speed at which these items travel, which exceeds 28,000 km/h, turning them into real projectiles.
12. The Oldest Debris Still Exists
In 1958, the 6.4-inch-diameter, 3.5-pound spacecraft called The Vanguard 1 became the first solar-powered satellite to be launched into space. It was used to transmit data from 1957 to 1964, and it has remained silent since then. The Vanguard 1 was revolutionary at the time. It’s now simply another piece of space garbage.
Despite its illustrious history, Vanguard 1 became one of the earliest relics in what has since become a real halo of anthropogenic space junk in Earth’s low orbit when it stopped broadcasting in 1964. This satellite captured the public interest as the great size and model, but satellite designers did not consider the environmental consequences of their actions, as was customary in the 1950s. Hence, The Vanguard I is the oldest piece of junk space that still exists today.
13. Russia Has The Most Space Junk
Junk is surfacing in space from a variety of countries. This debris not only travels fast enough to damage a spacecraft or satellite, but it can also affect space vehicles used by humans. Russia and its Commonwealth partners now have the most space trash in orbit, followed by the United States, China, France, and India. More than twice as much as the second biggest offender, Russia has 14,000 bits of junk orbiting Earth in 2020.
Russia, which recently has contributed the most, has lately launched 65 additional items into space. After nine years in orbit, a rocket used to deliver a research satellite into space broke apart in 2020, scattering thousands of bits of debris around Earth. The rocket broke down on May 8 between 06:00 and 07:00 BST somewhere above the Indian Ocean, according to Roscosmos.
14. Abandoned Rocket Hits The Moon
In March 2022, a purported remnant piece of a Chinese rocket slammed into the Moon after years of speeding across deep space. The impact brings the rocket’s time in space to a close and is expected to generate a new crater on the Moon that might be up to 65 feet big. At first, the now-defunct rocket created quite a stir. The vehicle was never meant to crash into the Moon, therefore it’s an unusual piece of space junk that landed up on the lunar surface by chance.
Astronomers believe the Chang’e 5-T1 mission, which took place six years ago, was the source of this missile. According to the Chang’e 5-T1 mission’s monitoring website, the rocket returned to Earth roughly a year after launch and burned up in our atmosphere. The 18th Space Control Squadron of the United States Space Force later established that the Long March 3C from the flight did not actually re-enter our atmosphere and has been in space since its launch.
15. Chinese Rocket Debris Landed In India
In April 2022, a metal ring with a diameter of two to three meters and a weight of over 40 kg was discovered in a small field in Maharashtra state. A big metal ring and sphere reported falling from the sky by locals in Maharashtra could be from a Chinese rocket blasted into space last year. Fortunately, there were no injuries or structural damage reported.
The arrival of the objects was the “closest match” to the re-entry timeframes for debris from a Chinese rocket launched in February 2021, according to the Indian Space Research Organization. Furthermore, the ring matched a portion of China’s Long March 3B rocket.
When objects enter the atmosphere, they generate enormous amounts of heat and friction, which can cause them to burn up and dissolve, although larger objects may not be completely destroyed. Therefore, their debris may fall to the planet’s surface, causing damage and casualties, however this is a minor probability.