Space debris

Space debris, also known as orbital debris, space junk and space waste, is the collection of manmade defunct objects in orbit around Earth. This includes spent rocket stages, old satellites and fragments from disintegration, erosion and collisions. Since orbits overlap with new spacecraft, debris may collide with operational spacecraft.

Since the chance of collision is influenced by the number of objects in space, there is a critical density where the creation of new debris is theorized to occur faster than natural forces remove them. Beyond this point a runaway chain reaction (known as the Kessler syndrome) may occur, rapidly increasing the amount of debris in orbit and the risk to operational satellites. Whether the critical density has been reached in certain orbital bands is a subject of debate. A Kessler syndrome would render a portion of useful polar-orbiting bands difficult to use, increasing the cost of space missions. The measurement, growth mitigation and potential removal of space debris are conducted by the space industry.


Space junk is a concern that certainly soon begin to gain importance.

Despite the small size of most of the fragments, the breakneck speed at which they are subjected, make them a serious threat to any task that can be completed in the near future.

Since 1991, there have been at least three collisions in Earth orbit because of the space junk. These collisions will multiply and, simultaneously, increase hazardous objects in orbit. The mathematical progression calculated by experts estimated at more than 18 crashes per year is the number of accidents caused by these scraps to within two centuries.

The first official maneuver avoiding collision was during the space shuttle STS-48 in September 1991. A power control system for 7 seconds was done to avoid a possible encounter with remains of Kosmos 955 satellite.

Experts recognize that addressing this problem is complicated and expensive, so it would be necessary for researchers to devise new methods to solve such problems.

Publicado por: Mario Santiago Martín y Pablo Vargas García



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