Experts warn FUTURE space launches could be in jeopardy if “dumb” regimes like Russia don’t stop blowing up debris.
Low Earth orbit is filled with so-called “space junk” that could wreak havoc on satellites, as well as astronauts aboard the International Space Station (ISS).
More than 30,000 bits are currently being tracked – although there are also millions of tiny pieces smaller than 1cm floating around.
With billionaires like Elon Musk launching countless satellites into space, experts fear that the skies could become overcrowded, increasing the risk of collisions.
While the threat is unlikely to cause a fatal crash on Earth, it could bring down communications and internet access.
Professor Lord Rees, who holds the prestigious Royal title of astronomer to advise the Queen on astronomical matters, told The Sun if the situation worsens, it could cause orbit Earth’s low “unusable”.
“What people are most worried about is the huge amount of small pieces of debris that cannot be cleaned up but can damage a satellite,” he warned.
“This is a serious concern in low Earth orbit, especially if SpaceX puts these 40,000 Starlink spacecraft on board.
“Let’s say two spacecraft collide, creating a lot of debris, and then that makes it more likely that another satellite will be hit by debris and will break up.
“There is serious concern that low Earth orbit may eventually become unusable because the risk of the satellite being hit by something is too great.”
Professor Martin Barstow, from the University of Leicester told The Sun that the risk at the moment is low but we need to act now.
The astrophysicist called Russia’s “stupid” decision to deliberately blow up one of its satellites in space, dangerously exploding thousands of pieces of debris.
“They can develop a huge potential risk if the problem gets out of control,” he said.
“A few events that cause a lot of debris can start to speed up the process.
“It’s not a total mess, it can be fixed – equivalently if people are stupid or some regime is stupid – I think I would be quite happy to call the Russians stupid for doing explode that satellite.
“I don’t see why I should insist on that because the people testing anti-satellite weapons are actually creating debris and that’s causing problems.”
Some satellites, like those used for satnavs, are taller to remain unaffected in the same way.
But if the low orbit becomes a mess, it will prevent us from making a clear approach.
“Of course you have to actually go through the area of debris and that can really make it much more difficult to get satellites into this kind of deeper orbit,” warned Prof Barstow.
“We’re not at the stage where the worst-case scenario is.
“It’s a bit like the environmental issues here, you have to start addressing it now and worry about the long-term future.
“If you put it away, it will be too late if we don’t do something about it now.”
As for the risk to those on Earth, it is safe for now.
Small debris will burn up in the atmosphere.
Professor Lord Rees, who has released a book called The End of Astronauts: Why Robots Are the Future of Exploration, later this year, said larger spacecraft would pose a danger actually for us on Earth, but luckily the chances of that happening at the moment are slim.
In other news, a new space station for Tom Cruise for filming caused the jaws to fall out for all the wrong reasons.
Scientists have pinpointed when they believe The sun will explode and wipe out everything on Earth in the process.
And Apple is work to fix for a recently discovered bug that could potentially expose iPhone users’ personal data.
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https://www.thesun.ie/tech/8281339/space-junk-low-earth-orbit-risk-satellites/ Low-Earth Orbit Could Come Unexpected Due to Fears of Catastrophic Satellite Collision, Experts Warn