Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Space debris: evolution in pictures

Objects in Low Earth Orbit (LEO) - view over the North Pole


Between the launch of Sputnik on 4 October 1957 and 1 January 2008, approximately 4600 launches have placed some 6000 satellites into orbit, of which about 400 are travelling beyond geostationary orbit or on interplanetary trajectories.

Today, it is estimated that only 800 satellites are operational - roughly 45 percent of these are both in LEO and GEO. Space debris comprise the ever-increasing amount of inactive space hardware in orbit around the Earth as well as fragments of spacecraft that have broken up, exploded or otherwise become abandoned.

Have a look at this somewhat disconcerting photo essay on the ESA's website. I don't think it's such a good idea to have all that crap floating around out there.

Check out the pie-chart and tell me just what 'unidentified' could mean.

Here's more on the ESA's space debris activities and an article on space debris mitigation.

Wikipedia has a little bit on this. I loved this part:
Other ideas include the gathering of larger objects into an orbital "junk yard", where they could be used as resources should future needs arise, while keeping them out of the way.

I wanna be a space janitor.



Alan Evil said...

And just how many of these satellites do you think have plutonium power plants on them? I would have to say too many if the number is more than zero.

John M. said...

It seems that most are solar powered, but if you Google "nuclear powered satellite", you'll find some disturbing items.

Anonymous said...

here's a great book about space janitors.

John M. said...


I see they have a dvd. Any good?