Man-made satellites have to use boosters to accelerate to maintain orbit around the Earth. Space debris and old satellites with depleted boosters should be either pulled by Earth's gravity, or slowed by our atmosphere (however thin it may be). So my question is, why is there still so much debris around the Earth?

  • $\begingroup$ It is pulled towards Earth by Earth's gravity. That's why the debris is in orbit. It’s drag that deorbits debris and once you get near 1,000 km it can take decades for objects of common ballistic coefficients. $\endgroup$
    – Adam Wuerl
    May 29 '15 at 5:49
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ Voting to close because both the question and the answer are very similar to: space.stackexchange.com/questions/999/space-debris-half-life $\endgroup$ May 29 '15 at 17:50

The NASA Orbital Debris web-page gives some interesting statistics :

12). How long will orbital debris remain in Earth orbit? The higher the altitude, the longer the orbital debris will typically remain in Earth orbit. Debris left in orbits below 600 km normally fall back to Earth within several years. At altitudes of 800 km, the time for orbital decay is often measured in decades. Above 1,000 km, orbital debris will normally continue circling the Earth for a century or more.

So If we stopped sending things in orbit then eventually it would clear up. But we are probably sending more things up than are coming down.


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