Space Junk Moving Up Front And Center

Robert Zwilling

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Two recent events involving small high speed objects, most likely space junk, that hit larger objects which generated more objects, illustrate how the situation could become out of control. Certain zones might become off limits to new operations if collisions snowball creating clouds of space junk. Functional satellites have already been impacted.

Some of the space junk falls into Earth's atmosphere and disappears, other pieces are too high up for that solution. One piece, an old satellite at 870 miles got hit by something which generated more debris. Between 500 and 600 miles some old soviet rockets and satellites are parked in orbit. At 600 miles two large pieces of discarded equipment, a rocket stage and a satellite came within 20 feet of each other. If they collided, thousands of pieces of new space junk would be generated where there already were pieces located.

Another incident would be comedic, if not incredibly coincidental. About 3 weeks ago, an adapter, a conical-shaped leftover, roughly 250 pounds (113 kg) in mass, from a 2013 Vega launch that sent a small fleet of satellites into orbit was picked to be removed from space by a company planning on removing space junk. But before it could be removed, it was hit by a piece of space junk, which created more pieces.
 

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