There is plastic in our oceans, The polar ice caps are melting, The earth is warming, a natural disasters are occurring more frequently. Now, we also have trash in space. Oh yeah, we also have trash on the moon and mars. Because that’s what humans do, we produce waste and forget about it.
Space Junk- disused satellites and other man-made debris in orbit around the earth.
How much junk is in Space?
The US Space Surveillance Network reported in 2019 nearly 20,000 artificial objects in orbit above the Earth, including 2,218 operational satellites. however, these are the pieces large enough to be tracked. There are more than 128 million pieces of debris smaller than 1 centimeter. 900,000 pieces of debris 1–10 cm, and around 34,000 of pieces larger than 10 cm were estimated to orbit Earth.
The Threat of Space Junk
Space junk is a significant problem that needs to be fixed immediately or eventually we will reach the point of no return. The point of no return being never being able to leave earth again.
Space junk is an issue because it is orbiting earth 18,000 mph. Every single space mission has to accommodate for this junk or spacecraft can be shredded.
for example some spacecraft is not capable of holding Whipple shields (
shield used to protect crewed and uncrewed spacecraft from collisions).
The space industry needs to put more of an emphasis on removing Space Junk because it’s a threat to our astronauts. In 2016 space junk smaller than 1 cm created smaller crack on ISS window. The glass on the ISS is 1.25 inches thick and it was cracked compared to glass on Earth which is only 1/16 of an inch thick. The most terrifying things about space Junk is “Anything above 1 cm could penetrate the shields of the Station’s crew modules, and anything larger than 10 cm could shatter a satellite or spacecraft into pieces.” According to the ESA.
Concepts to Removing Space Junk
Theoretically engineers could create high powered pulsed lasers on Earth that are strong enough to slow down space junk to re-enter the atmosphere and burn up or fall into the oceans. Once the space junk returned to Earth it could be recycled or disposed of properly.
Currently the Global Aerospace Corporation is developing a space ballon called the Gossamer Orbit Lowering Device. The Ballon GOLD will have an envelope thinner than a sandwich bag. The envelope will increase the aerodynamic drag by a factor of several hundred. Which will result in Space Junk entering the Earths atmosphere and burning up.
The ESLA-d was launched March, 2021. The ESLA-d was created by Astroscale, it private firm the removes trash from space. The ESLA-d captures space junk through essentially a magnetic plate. Once Is captured, the space junk is de-orbited (meaning the space junk burns up in earths atmosphere).