Space debris is man-made objects in Earth’s orbit or objects that reenter the atmosphere, including parts that have finished their active existence and are no longer useful. This widely accepted official definition was adopted by the Inter-Agency Space Debris Coordination Committee (IADC), an international governmental forum for the worldwide coordination of activities related to the issues of man-made and natural debris in space (Rossi, 2011).
According to A. Rossi (2011), since October 4, 1957, when the first satellite Sputnik-1 was launched by USSR, there have been more than 5000 launches with nearly 7000 payloads placed in orbit. Most of these spacecraft eventually reentered Earth’s atmosphere. Currently there are about 3500 satellites and probes orbiting the Earth together with about 1800 upper stages, i.e. parts of the rockets used to bring them to space. Of all these spacecraft only about 900 are operational and all of the rest are space debris. This population of satellites and rocket bodies’ account for about 99% of the debris orbiting the Earth are estimated to be around 5000 metric tons.
There are more than 20,000 pieces of debris larger than a softball orbiting the Earth. This debris can travel at speeds up to 17,500 mph. Even a relatively small piece of space debris can damage a satellite or a spacecraft at these speeds. Additionally, there are more than 500,000 pieces...
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...space can change some of design of spacecraft and cost of operations. Economically will be advantageous to anticipate and implement these changes early in the design and manufacture of satellites and launch vehicles.
I would like to add that as the contamination of space continues to grow it will increase the risk of collisions that cause damage to the spacecraft. With the existing technologies it is a difficult task of improving the state of the space environment but any reasonable step to preserve space for the future generations will involve steps to reduce pollution.
Marinin, D.V. (2011). Aerospace High School at the National Aerospace University. Zhukovsky "HAI"
Rossi, A. (2011), Scholarpedia
National Aeronautics and Space Administration, (2012, April), Orbital Debris Quarterly News. Volume 16, Issue 2
Reichhardt, T. (2008). Air & Space magazine
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