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Space Debris- Understanding the Basics

The geosynchronous Earth orbit (GEO) and low Earth orbit (LEO) is where human space activity takes place.

The GEO is dominated by the important satellite telecommunications industry.

An object in GEO can likely orbit for millions of years.

The oldest object is the U.S. satellite Vanguard 1. The first satellite, Soviet Union's Sputnik 1 (January 1, 1958), decayed less than 3 months after launch.

There are 23, 000 tracked and catalogued artificial objects in orbit. For every trackable object there is approximately : 20 untrackable "-1cm" objects AND nearly 10, 000 untrackable "1-mm" objects. Objects measuring "1micron" could possibly amount to 100 trillion.

There are also 7200 untracked objects.

All orbiting objects carry the threat of colliding with their objects--this problem is defined by many titles such as: The Kessler Syndrome, runaway debris generation, or collisional cascading. Some say that it is too late to fix this problem from happening in certain altitudes.

When a 1000kg satellite is broken by a 10cm object, million of pieces will be produced--which will in turn, cause new breakups. Secondary collisions could eventually cause regions like the GEO or LEO to be unusable.

A 1cm object weighting a few grams contains enough kinetic energy to be 250kg moving at 100km per hour.

--These facts come from a NASA Reference Publication 1320, Orbital Debris and Near-Earth Environmental Management: A Chronology. Printed in November 1993. David S.F. Portree and Joseph P. Loftus, Jr.

Online Videos- Debris Related






Links- Space & Debris Related

Celestial Mechanics

Download Space Junk Catalogue for Google Earth

Page that includes "Orbit" results

History of Hubble Telescope and the discovery of "Deep Space/Deep Astronomy"

Visual Graph of space debris (according to country includes active/non-functional debris)

The Unknown Universe (begins with Himilayas and goes to Universe)

Also see: Positions of Satellites Around Earth via Google Earth


Space & Debris- Bibliography

Harfield, Dave (editor).  How it Works:  Book of Space.  Imagine Publishing: London, 2010.

Johnson, Nicholas L. and McKnight, Darren S.  Artificial Space Debris.  Orbit Book Company:  Florida, 1987.
Maurer, Richard.  Junk in Space.  Simon and Schuster Books for Young Readers:  Spain, 1989.

Portree, David S.F and Loftus, Joseph P. Jr. Orbital Debris and Near-Earth Environmental Management: A Chronology. NASA Reference Publication 1320. November 1993.

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