Questions tagged [debris]

Questions about debris in space, often in Earth orbit. Usually referring to nonoperational man-made satellites or parts of satellites.

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What happens to the parts of rockets after they burn up?

For some first stages and second stages, and some failed launches, their fate is to burn up in the Earth atmosphere. Once the stage has broken into thousands of smaller parts, aerodynamics changes. ...
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3 votes
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Woz in space! What will make Privateer's Jah's tracking software so much better than the current state of the art?

CNN's Steve Wozniak's new venture takes aim at space junk discusses a project with Wozniak, Alex Fielding and Moriba Jah: But the money, according to Wozniak's co-founder in this new venture, couldn'...
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Is it true that 18SPCS is "not really concerned with tracking deep-space debris like" the Chang’e 5-T1 rocket body that hit the Moon?

The Verge's After mistaken identity and confusion, a piece of space junk slams into the Moon goes through the identification saga of the thing that hit the Moon March 4 and includes the following: ...
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Is the impact of Chang’e 5-T1 rocket stage on the Moon's far side on March 4th likely to launch any debris into Moon or Earth orbit?

It is predicted that the Chang’e 5-T1 rocket stage will impact the Moon's far side on March 4th. The stage apparently weighs about 4 tonnes and will impact at 2.5 km/s at a shallow angle. There's ...
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Why not add tracking features to upper stages? Has something like this ever been proposed?

The identity of the object that will hit the Moon in early March is still uncertain. Some of the story is in Why did we think that the object was gonna hit the Moon March 4th 2022? Who's been ...
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Project Pluto asks: "Should high-flying space junk be better tracked? Perhaps by an 'official' agency of some sort?" What would it take to implement?

The identity of the object that will hit the Moon in early March is still uncertain. Some of the story is in Why did we think that the object was gonna hit the Moon March 4th 2022? Who's been ...
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How much will global warming increase the density of debris in LEO? What are predictions currently saying?

After about 08:00 in Scott Manley's hot off the press new release SpaceX Loses 40 Satellites To Solar Storm linked below he drifts away from the solar activity-...
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BBC: "A rocket launched by Elon Musk's space exploration company is on course to crash into the Moon and explode." Will it really explode?

The line following the title of BBC's Elon Musk SpaceX rocket on collision course with moon reads: A rocket launched by Elon Musk's space exploration company is on course to crash into the Moon and ...
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Why did we think that the object was gonna hit the Moon March 4th 2022? Who's been tracking and predicting it so closely?

The Guardian's 'Out-of-control' Chinese rocket falling to Earth... Oops, I mean Out-of-control SpaceX rocket on collision course with moon says that Bill Gray's Project Pluto/DSCOVR says that the 2015 ...
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Did any Columbia debris continue orbiting Earth?

For reentry the Space Shuttles lowered their perigee to 28 nautical miles (52 km) above sea level. Shuttle Columbia disintegrated around 60 km altitude, and the first debris fell off as high as 70.5 ...
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15 votes
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Does James Webb have any protection against meteoroids/space debris?

Any satellite in space is exposed to meteoroids and space debris, and this can cause problems during the operation of a spacecraft. Does JWST have any protection against these problems on its sun ...
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Where to get raw data for ESA graphs

The European Space Agency maintains the MASTER space debris model and has multiple papers published on the topic. There is a graph that I have seen in a few papers and on a few websites that I would ...
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2 votes
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How can we get rid of space debris? [closed]

It's known that space debris can do harm to satellites. I have 2 questions: How do satellites avoid them? Are there any ways to get rid of it?
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Shouldn't space junk fall back to Earth on its own? How long will take for a ~1 cm piece of junk in LEO to fall back to Earth on its own for example?

I'm a noob in this subject and know little about space exploration, but I wonder about this every time I read the news: Wouldn't drag make all space junk fall back to Earth after some time? I'm ...
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5 votes
1 answer
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How do kick motors distance themselves from their payload after their burn, if at all?

I saw Space News' An object is now orbiting alongside China’s Shijian-21 debris mitigation satellite recently about a "new object" orbiting near a relatively newly launched satellite. The ...
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Is pre-deorbit explosive disassembly of the ISS utilising propellant a useful way to reduce impact debris?

The ISS could be disassembled post retro burn to provide smaller pieces for burn-up. If the hull space were filled with a stoichiometric mix of propellant from the deorbiting vessel post-burn, it ...
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Deorbit of ISS is a unique event. Are there plans for scientific observation?

The ISS deorbit will be unique. Not only because of its mass, but because the time, location and observing conditions can be accurately chosen. Instruments could be placed for detailed observation. ...
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When the ISS is de-orbited, what is the likely mass of the largest impact fragment?

Some parts of the ISS will be more fragmentation-proof than others. Engine bells and pressure vessels, for instance. Has NASA done a formal assessment of component survivability to determine what big ...
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Are pictures of Earth' space junk realistic?

Every time I look at a picture that shows the amount of space junk I'm baffled. I can't for the life of me think how anything else being launch into orbit actually makes it without hitting anything ...
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When was an operational satellite accidentally damaged by another man-made object in space?

In connection with the question on Starlink constellation potential contribution to a run-away phenomenon, also known as “Kessler syndrome”, it would be of interest to know how well actual collision ...
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International SSA/STM 3-Layer Model

I'm working on a paper outlining an International SSA/STM1 approach for Civil SSA/STM and have read and referenced many publications. I believe it was an IDA documents such as https://www.ida.org/-/...
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How much could a full-blown Starlink constellation contribute to a future Kessler scenario? What would be the worst-case scenario?

Discussions in comments below this answer to What is the biggest satellite constellation in space right now? have touched on risk vs reward and the Kessler Syndrome in the context of full-blown ...
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4 answers
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Recycling space debris for manufacturing in space

There are a few companies interested in manufacturing (mostly additive) in space. Let's say that by some miracle some company comes up with a space station that is capable of sending out service ...
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3 votes
1 answer
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What happened to the launch debris that the US dropped on Cuba? Was it noticed or reported?

This answer to How does one dogleg from Florida to a sun-synchronous orbit? this answer to History of multiple-payload launches? both describe a launch of GRAB1 that secretly contained a second ...
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Are artificial satellites impacted primarily by natural or artificial particles?

Are functional artificial satellites/space stations/spacecraft/probes impacted primarily by natural or artificial particles/debris? Lets go by something comparable like impact frequency per mass/...
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Why are we not seeing probability curves for space junk collision prediction?

Since many specific space junk collision risks have been assessed, why haven't we combined the data and graphed it? The trendlines could be very instructive. Like mapping climate change, the curve ...
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Testing our knowledge of Space Law. Which state would be liable if a Oneweb satellite collides with another satellite?

On June 27th, Oneweb launched another batch of 36 LEO satellites from Vostochny Cosmodrome, Russia. The satellites separated from Soyuz at the altitude of ~400 km. Using their electric propulsion ...
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Who is the State of Registry for ALL the SpaceBEE satellites?

SpaceBEEs are tiny satellites engineered and exploited by the company Swarm Technologies. In 2018, it made headlines by sending 4 experimental satellites on a ride-share of the Indian rocket PSLV, ...
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3 votes
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Which Launching State HASN'T breached its obligations under the 1976 Registration Convention?

(the wording of my question above is voluntarily provocative, but the actual question below may be even more) The context: The 1976 Registration Convention is part of a set of Treaties that ...
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4 votes
1 answer
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Does Article VI of the Outer Space Treaty apply to a Launching State?

The following question was asked and answered 3 years ago: might ISRO’s launch of Swarm’s satellites in 2018 be at least a technical violation of the Outer Space Treaty? Recall that the launch in ...
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6 votes
0 answers
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Measuring and analyzing the tumble of space debris

How well or accurately can we measure the tumble of space debris? I know that we can make ground-based measurements based on light curve data acquired by telescopes. Can tumble be measured from radar ...
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4 votes
4 answers
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Do space industry companies want their defunct satellites back?

Space junk debate aside, many large satellite companies (and governments too) are responsible for a large number of both operational and defunct sats that are still in orbit. When other companies or ...
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2 votes
0 answers
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Where can i find ELSETS with Co-Variances?

For Special Permutations (I'm a novice), an ELSET with covariance is more accurate than without covariance. A TLE doesn't have room for any covariance. However, I can't seem to find a catalog that ...
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10 votes
3 answers
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Would it be possible to alter the orbit of one satellite, with the exhaust plume of a rocket sufficient to deorbit it?

SpaceX plan to launch Starships towards Mars; many of them. This will involve burning hundreds to thousands of tonnes of propellant in low(ish) orbit, since each may require several refueling steps. ...
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Source of Satellite and Debris Ephemerides for Analysis

I'm working on some code that will fuse ephemeris data, the raw telescope and radar data used for locating and tracking active satellites and space debris. Most of this data is owned by the Air Force ...
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11 votes
2 answers
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Who owns space junk?

Who owns space junk? There are several old satellites and rocket (second stage?) that get pushed to an orbit where they won't bother anything. Are these technically still owned by anyone (company or ...
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Does China pay for damages caused by deorbiting space junk?

When China launches a big rocket, they apparently don't control the deorbit and there are large enough pieces to strike the surface and even cause damage to buildings, as happened in the Ivory Coast ...
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8 votes
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Was the recent uncontrolled Chinese rocket de-orbit exceptional?

The recent (April 2021) Chinese CZ-5B rocket launch gained widespread media attention because the large launcher was designed to de-orbit in an uncontrolled fashion, and ultimately landed in the ...
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4 votes
2 answers
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Is it practical to 'shoot down' a rocket stage?

Space Policy Online has an article from yesterday titled 'AUSTIN: NO PLANS TO SHOOT DOWN ERRANT CHINESE ROCKET STAGE'. Which made me wonder - is that even plausible? If you shoot it in space, first ...
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5 votes
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How much debris will hit the ground from the Long March 5B compared to the debris from a GTO upper stage?

It was commented that there are currently 22 SpaceX upper stages in orbit that will eventually reenter in an uncontrolled fashion. PcMan pointed that out when I asked Why the Long March 5B wasn't ...
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6 votes
0 answers
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How common is the ejection of small objects during final stage separation?

Source: Crew-2 launch; YouTube (timestamp link) That object seen moving right to left is the reason I ask. By playing the video frame-by-frame, it seems like it's a small object close to the camera ...
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11 votes
1 answer
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How much is known about those liquid metal droplets orbiting the Earth? (e.g. sizes, composition, orbits...) Are any actually tracked?

The question Orbit Guardians - bs, right? mentions a company proposing a smallsat that will capture then give a roughly 200 m/s retrograde "kick" to liquid metal NaK alloy droplets in LEO ...
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5 votes
3 answers
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Orbit Guardians - bs, right?

California-based Orbit Guardians is one of a small number of startups trying to tackle orbital debris. It's difficult to tell exactly what their plan is, but based on this animation, they seem to ...
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4 votes
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How problematic is debris for Starship storage/depots?

So with the recent announcement that Starship has been selected as NASA's HLS (which is pretty radical), it's raised a question in me that been around for a while. For HLS; a Starship storage(depot) ...
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5 votes
1 answer
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ISS battery "de-orbit" burnup?

In reading these two questions: How many kilograms of nickel particles will be dispersed in Earth's atmosphere by dumping old ISS batteries overboard? and Why does it take so long for ISS garbage ...
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5 votes
3 answers
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Why does it take so long for ISS garbage to fall out of orbit?

The ISS recently jettison some garbage and expects it to take 2-4 years to de-orbit and burn up. From Gizmodo's ISS Ditches 2.9-Ton Pallet of Batteries, Creating Its Most Massive Piece of Space Trash: ...
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2 votes
0 answers
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What happens to the debris of a rocket that exploded or crashed? Is there a dedicated effort to cleaning the debris?

Assuming that everything is not vaporized, one would think that all waste is collected and incinerated. Does SpaceX, NASA, etc have a dedicated team/effort to cleaning up this debris?
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4 votes
1 answer
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Dimension and mass of space debris

I am doing a project on space debris management. I wanted to know the size and shape of common space debris (like rocket upper rocket stages). Is there a website which has data on debris? I know ...
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2 votes
0 answers
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Satellites | Debris & EMR

Over time we are launching plethora of communication satellites into space, with old ones reaching their lifespan and new ones replacing them. My Question is two folds: Are we simply creating more ...
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1 vote
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Does Chang'e 5 ascent module's crash has any other benefits for the space agency other than reducing the space junk?

I really appreciate what the Chinese space agency did with the ascent module, crashed it onto the lunar surface so that they won't contribute to the space debris. I was wondering if there is an ...
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