Space is running out of space [and time]

Humans have put 8,378 objects into space since the first Sputnik in 1957 and at the beginning of 2019 4,987 satellites were still up there, and 1957 are operational. From 1964to 2012 roughly 131 satellites were launched every year. In 2017 453 satellites were launched in space. In 2018, the number fell to 382. But 5200 are planned over the next four years and another 9,300 thereafter. That’s 15,000 satellites.

❝ First, wow…. how far have we come where the cost of launching a bird is so cheap now. Secondly, the unintended consequences of these many birds are going to be pretty substabtial. No one should be surprised if some complications develop overhead and cause problems down on the planet.

Think we’ll get it sorted?

11 thoughts on “Space is running out of space [and time]

  1. nicknielsensc says:

    With collisions and other incidents, including White’s lost glove, there are several hundred thousand man-made objects in orbit about the Earth. Of those, less than 20,000 are large enough to track. The national security and space communities have been worrying about it for decades. The general public won’t care, or even understand the consequences unless something punches through the ISS during a live feed.

    I discovered an excellent visualization of what’s up there a few years ago. The Stuff in Space ( website displays the orbits of all known objects in Earth orbit. You can select satellite groups (GPS, Iridium, etc.) or even specific satellites. Vanguard 1 is still up there after 61 years!

  2. Tom Corbett says:

    The first artificial Earth satellite was launched by the Soviet Union into an elliptical low Earth orbit on 4 October 1957. It orbiting for three weeks before its batteries died, then silently for two more months before falling back into the atmosphere.
    Elon Musk’s Starlink, once complete, will consist of nearly 12,000 satellites — more than six times the number of all operational spacecraft now in orbit. The goal is to finish the project in 2027, thereby blanketing the Earth with high-speed, low-latency, and affordable internet access.

  3. Alas, Babylon says:

    “Elon Musk’s Starlink Satellites Are Already Causing a Headache for Astronomers”
    See also discussion and photos at
    The Starlink satellite train as seen shortly before 1:00 am in the Netherlands on May 25, 2019 (video is three times normal speed).,fl_progressive,q_80,w_800/rckflzudtrcirle3tjio.mp4
    A group of galaxies imaged by a telescope at Lowell Observatory in Arizona on May 25, 2019—just two days after SpaceX deployed 60 Starlink satellites. The diagonal lines running across the image are trails of reflected light left by more than 25 of the satellites as they passed through the telescope’s field of view.,f_auto,fl_progressive,q_80,w_800/mf5drqbhcvtw4pyanrrg.jpg
    American Astronomical Society Position Statement on Satellite Constellations (June 10, 2019):

    • Space case says:

      Satellite constellations: Astronomers warn of threat to view of Universe (BBC News)
      “…There are currently 2,200 active satellites flying around the Earth.
      But as of next week, the Starlink constellation – a project by US company SpaceX – will start sending batches of 60 satellites into orbit every few weeks. This will mean about 1,500 satellites have been launched by the end of next year, and by the mid-2020s there could be a fleet of 12,000.
      UK company OneWeb are aiming for about 650 satellites – but this could rise to 2,000 if there is enough customer demand.
      Amazon has a constellation of 3,200 spacecraft planned.”
      Caption: “OneWeb’s satellite constellation will sit 1,200km above the Earth” (note dots representing their satelites)

  4. 甘德 says:

    “Lasers learn to accurately spot space junk : Scientists applied a set of algorithms to laser-ranging telescopes and succeeded in increasing accurate detection of the space litter in Earth’s orbit threatening spacecraft safety” (American Institute of Physics Press release 12/24/19)
    “A unique set of algorithms for laser ranging telescopes, described in the Journal of Laser Applications, by AIP Publishing, has significantly improving the success rate of space debris detection.” See
    “After improving the pointing accuracy of the telescope through a neural network, space debris with a cross sectional area of 1 meter squared and a distance of 1,500 kilometers can be detected,” said Tianming Ma, from the Chinese Academy of Surveying and Mapping, Beijing and Liaoning Technical University, Fuxin.

  5. Twinkle, twinkle says:

    (Scientific American) The FCC’s Approval of SpaceX’s Starlink Mega Constellation May Have Been Unlawful : A new paper suggests that the agency broke U.S. environmental law in its approval of the satellites and that if it was sued in court, it would likely lose
    (5/24/19): SpaceX Starlink Satellites Spotted Over Netherlands (video)

  6. YIKES says:

    Satellite operators, and everyone else who wants a safe and sustainable space environment, dodged a bullet Wednesday evening (Jan. 29).
    Two defunct satellites — the Infrared Astronomical Satellite (IRAS) and the Gravity Gradient Stabilization Experiment (GGSE-4) — cruised safely past each other high in the skies above Pittsburgh.
    The near miss of space junk, which occurred at 6:39 p.m. EST (2339 GMT), was expected; various analyses over the past few days by California-based tracking company LeoLabs had pegged the chance of a collision at just 0.1% to 5%. NASA officials told that the U.S. military’s 18th Space Control Squadron, which tracks space debris and satellites, estimated just a 0.07% chance of a collision. (LeoLabs’ final pre-conjunction calculation estimated a close-approach distance of 154 feet, or 47 meters).
    Photo of IRAS just as its passing GGSE-4

  7. Anomalous data says:

    “It’s the First Orbiting Garbage Collector—or a New Kind of Space Weapon : The same tech that could help make space cleaner might, in the long run, also make it more dangerous.” (Jan 2, 2020)
    Swiss startup ClearSpace designed the ClearSpace-1 vehicle to intercept a chunk of debris, latch onto it, and drag it back into Earth’s atmosphere where it can safely burn up. The ESA has scheduled the clean-up mission for 2025 and has even identified its target: a 265-pound piece of an old rocket orbiting 310 miles above Earth’s surface.

  8. Update says:

    “Avoiding space debris might require new legal framework, US lawmakers say”

    U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Science, Space and Technology, Space and Aeronautics Subcommittee Hearing, opening statement, Chairwoman Kendra Horn (D-OK) of the Subcommittee on Space and Aeronautics, opening statement: Space Situational Awareness: Key Issues in an Evolving Landscape, February 11, 2020.

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