Duck, Astronauts! 100M Pieces of Space Junk in Orbit Now

Cool video here: Space Junk


Picture Credit: NASA


Our Hypervelocity Impact Technology team’s recent testing will contribute to a new shield for More at

 Some 27,000 of these are larger than softballs (about 4 inches) across 
  • These are tracked by Nasa and the US Department of Defense
  • They pose a threat to future generations living and working in space
  • ‘Adrift’ science and arts exhibition raises awareness of the dangers posed by space debris

A nice report in the Daily Mail (UK) explains that space junk or “debris” is a growth industry as “the rubbish circling the planet comes from old rockets, abandoned satellites and missile shrapnel.” The metal and plastic junk hurtling round the Earth at more than 20 times the speed of sound (over 17K mph) presents one of the greatest environmental challenges facing humanity, according to NASA and its UK counterpart. Dr Hugh Lewis believes the growing problem to be a threat to future generations’ hopes of living and working in space.  Cleaning up orbital space ‘may take years to achieve’ and will require the help of engineers, scientists, lawyers and economists, he says. ” Dr Lewis issued this warning at the Royal Astronomical Society during the launch of Adrift, a new science and arts project aimed at raising awareness of space junk (see Twitter profile here).


Picture Credit: Project Adrift

Dr. Lewis is Senior Lecturer in Aerospace Engineering at the University of Southampton, author of the space debris evolutionary model DAMAGE and I lead the Astronautics Research Group’s space debris and space situational awareness activities. I’m a member of the UK Space Agency delegation to the Inter-Agency Space Debris Coordination Committee (IADC) and the Space Missions Planning Advisory Group (SMPAG), and I’m also a member of the UK delegation to the United Nations Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space (UN COPUOS). has a specific section on “Space Debris” and noted that the U.S. and China held a second set of talks on the orbiting junk. Collisions have happened before and the International Space Station has documented the risks.. In a keynote speech in Maui on Sept. 22 at the AMOS conference, Frank Rose, the assistant secretary of State for arms control, verification and compliance, said that the China talks include space debris, collision prevention steps on orbit and China’s aggressive development of anti-satellite systems. Rose warned, “We want to promote strategic restraint where we can. We’ve also made it very clear to China, Russia and other potential adversaries the United States will defend ourselves and our friends in outer space.”

Firefly Space Systems (Austin, TX) was going to harvest dead satellites and space junk by transporting them to the Mars moon Phobos but this was a secondary to the core mission: “to provide low-cost, high-performance space launch capability for the under-served small satellite market, where secondary-payload launches are often the only option.” Phobos is the innermost and larger of the two natural satellites of Mars, the other being Deimos. Both moons were discovered in 1877 by American astronomer Asaph Hall.  But in October 2016, Space News reported that a key investor needed to complete a Series A funding round, according to co-founder and chief executive Thomas Markusic.


Picture Credit: from Warner Brothers Studios

Hollywood already has aggressively embraced the “space movie” theme with over 25 releases in 2016 alone. The risks from space debris were shown with great cinematography (if not acting) in the 2013 movie Gravity (HDX video trailer here).


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