There is now believed to be an astonishing 170 million pieces of junk floating in Earth’s upper atmosphere, but only 22,000 are being tracked. Some 7,000 tonnes of space junk circle our planet, as defunct satellites, junk from rockets and other metals and rocks build up close to Earth. Experts have previously warned that as space debris increases, it will make it harder for rocket’s to escape Earth’s orbit out of fear of colliding with an object, known as the ‘Klesser syndrome’.
Now, an expert has singled out Elon Musk and his SpaceX firm, with the company planning on sending 60 satellites into orbit as part of Starlink – a project which will hopefully see internet beamed from space, thus making it more accessible for everyone.
The SpaceX Starlink plan is an attempt to bring high-speed internet to anyone around the world.
The satellites will centre using a low earth orbit to link to ground terminals on Earth to provide internet connection.
These low orbit satellites are between 99 to 1,200 miles from Earth instead of the traditional 22,000 miles for geostationary satellites
When asked about SpaceX’s launches, Dr Stijn Lemmens told Scientific American: “The worst case is: You launch all your satellites, you go bankrupt, and they all stay there.
“Then you have thousands of new satellites without a plan of getting them out of there. And you would have a Kessler-type of syndrome.”
Space debris can be detrimental to space travel and as Earth’s low orbit continues to become more congested, experts including those at NASA have warned of its perils.
Nicholas Johnson, the chief scientist for Orbital Debris, said: “Any of these debris has the potential for seriously disrupting or terminating the mission of operational spacecraft in low Earth orbit.
“This satellite breakup represents the most prolific and serious fragmentation in the course of 50 years of space operations.”
Not only does it pose a threat to space travel, but technologies such as mobile phones, television, GPS and weather related services also rely on satellites, so a cataclysmic series of crashes could pose a threat to our already over-reliance for satellites.