What is the biggest of space junk in orbit? What was it used for and is there a picture?

enter image description here Source: Wikipedia

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    $\begingroup$ Are you restricting space junk (as in defunct spacecraft) to Earth orbit or do you allow any junk (including junk orbiting other bodies)? $\endgroup$
    – Polygnome
    Commented Apr 20, 2018 at 11:36
  • $\begingroup$ In some years, may be some decades, the ISS will be the biggest one. It is too expensive to lift the orbit periodically when the ISS is no longer used and inhabited. $\endgroup$
    – Uwe
    Commented Apr 20, 2018 at 17:23

1 Answer 1


The UCS has a list of satellites which can be sorted by launch mass.

The top 10 is mostly spy satellites for which it's difficult to determine if they're active or defunct.

The heaviest satellite of which I'm sure it's not functional, is Envisat at 8 tons.

enter image description here

(1:1 model of Envisat at Space Expo in Noordwijk, the Netherlands)

This list doesn't account for upper stages etc., but even a big upper stage like the Ariane 5 ESC-A weighs only 3 tons empty. The Saturn 5 upper stages are bigger, but aren't in Earth orbit.

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    $\begingroup$ +1 for the link to that database! Wow, Envisat is big. I was sure it would be the 3rd Milstar but not even close. $\endgroup$ Commented Apr 20, 2018 at 13:53
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    $\begingroup$ +1 for making me wonder where the Saturn 5 upper stages are: seeker.com/…. Someone should post this as an SSE question. :) $\endgroup$ Commented Apr 20, 2018 at 15:26
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    $\begingroup$ fyi I've just asked Is there a database for space junk beyond Earth orbit, and is Roadster in it? $\endgroup$
    – uhoh
    Commented Apr 20, 2018 at 18:51
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    $\begingroup$ Where did you get the data with Envisat? I have been looking at the data and the heaviest sats I found were the Keyholes which are listed as 10 tons $\endgroup$
    – OganM
    Commented Apr 20, 2018 at 20:11
  • $\begingroup$ as I said in my answer, I sorted the list by launch mass, and went from the top. Everything above Envisat is classified, so I can't look up if the satellite is still active or not. $\endgroup$
    – Hobbes
    Commented Apr 21, 2018 at 7:44

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