Space: Small, Fast, Unpredictable And Deadly

“The U.S. has proposed using a space based laser to destroy much of the space junk. The laser either vaporizes debris, or damages the larger bits so that its orbit “decays” and the junk moves down into the atmosphere and burns up. Many nations object to this proposal, as such a laser system could also be used as an anti-satellite weapon. However, if the growing swarm of space junk destroys lots more satellites, that attitude may change.”

“After over half a century of humans putting objects into orbit, there is a lot of junk circling the planet. Currently, over 300,000 dangerous objects 10 mm (.4 inch) in size have been identified. The smallest of these is capable of disabling a satellite, or damaging a spacecraft. The damage is severe because these objects can hit at very high speed (9-10 times faster than a bullet) if they, and their target, are coming from different directions. There are nearly 18,000 objects 10 centimeters (4 inches) or larger. These can do some catastrophic damage to satellites or spacecraft. There are millions of objects smaller than 10mm, and these are responsible for many satellites failing early because of cumulative damage from getting hit by lots of these micro objects.”

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