Questions tagged [debris]

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

Filter by
Sorted by
Tagged with
77 votes
6 answers
26k views

Is the SpaceX Falcon Heavy payload (a Tesla car) space junk?

Yesterday SpaceX succeeded in the first Falcon Heavy launch, but the payload, a Tesla car has no real useful purpose (except for company prestige). Thus, can it be considered as space junk ? How long ...
Covich's user avatar
  • 909
51 votes
3 answers
10k views

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 ...
Joe DiNottra's user avatar
41 votes
3 answers
15k views

Why haven't more spacecraft/satellites been hit by debris?

It is touted by the media that space is becoming more dangerous and risky due to an increase in space debris. Why haven't more craft been hit by the debris? I presume that it is not at a critical ...
Marmstrong's user avatar
  • 1,093
40 votes
4 answers
5k views

Are there any safety procedures in place on the ISS in case of puncture?

The ISS is a huge (relatively) satellite which, according to NASA, is longer than a football field. I am curious about what would happen if the station's skin was punctured - perhaps by a careless ...
user avatar
39 votes
2 answers
5k views

Is it possible to observe space debris with Binoculars?

Recently I've started to observe satellites with my 20x80 Binoculars. I'm amazed by the fact I can clearly track satellites and rocket bodies at 2000 km altitude (I've reached 8 mag with some objects) ...
Swike's user avatar
  • 2,501
38 votes
3 answers
3k views

Flung debris in lunar landing

When a spacecraft lands on the moon, on unprepared ground, it must fling a lot of rocks and dust all around. If you are building a lunar base, the other components that are already there would be ...
Johnny Robinson's user avatar
34 votes
5 answers
9k views

India just shot down a satellite from the ground. At what altitude range is the resulting debris field?

This tweet from India's prime minister Narendra Modi says: मेरे प्यारे देशवासियों, आज सवेरे लगभग 11.45 - 12.00 बजे मैं एक महत्वपूर्ण संदेश लेकर आप के बीच आऊँगा। I would be addressing the nation at ...
uhoh's user avatar
  • 149k
33 votes
4 answers
5k views

What is the largest piece of space debris volumetrically?

What is the largest piece of space debris currently in Earth orbit by volume? Space debris is not limited to defunct satellites, but also includes things like spent upper stages. Bonus points for ...
Dragongeek's user avatar
  • 18.6k
33 votes
3 answers
18k views

Is there a lot of space trash at the Earth-Moon Lagrange points?

Lagrange points are the points in a multi-body gravitational system in which the gravitational force and centrifugal force sum to zero. The image below from this Wikipedia article shows the 5 ...
Chris Mueller's user avatar
32 votes
4 answers
11k views

Why would a box full of 1cm balls released into LEO be so scary to an engineer supporting the ISS?

update March 2018: I just saw this in Buzzfeed (Google sent me there, I don't normally read it): Rich People Will Soon Be Able To Buy Fake Meteor Showers On Demand. It seems this might happen in 2018. ...
uhoh's user avatar
  • 149k
31 votes
7 answers
8k views

Do things get dirty in space?

I'm writing a computer game involving space exploration, where the player will come across space ships/stations that are hundreds/thousands/tens of thousands of years old. I'm also trying to make it ...
GoatInTheMachine's user avatar
30 votes
4 answers
4k views

What would be the first noticeable consequences to the general public of widespread satellite destruction?

What would most likely be the first thing I, as an average citizen of a developed nation, notice, if within a matter of hours, all major commercial and government satellites were to be destroyed in a ...
Duncan McKirdy's user avatar
30 votes
1 answer
4k views

How is the Hubble main mirror protected from debris?

The Hubble Space Telescope recently hit 25 years in space. It orbits at ~550 km altitude (limited by the altitude the shuttle could reach to service it) and has sustained minor/trivial exterior ...
1337joe's user avatar
  • 7,216
29 votes
1 answer
938 views

Reason for space debris clustering in LEO

A paper (Active Debris Removal: EDDE) contained this diagram of orbital debris. This is the angle seen by the spacecraft horizontally and altitude vertically. What are the reasons for the lines and ...
AlanSE's user avatar
  • 16.2k
28 votes
3 answers
4k views

Why is the ribbon of decommissioned geosynchronous satellites skewed?

I was looking at this 3D map of satellites orbiting earth and noticed something interesting. Around the green ring of active geosynchronous satellites, there is a ribbon of what I assume are obsolete ...
EagleV_Attnam's user avatar
26 votes
5 answers
7k views

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 ...
uhoh's user avatar
  • 149k
26 votes
2 answers
4k views

What would the Venus landers look like today?

Between 1966 and 1985, several probes, mostly of Soviet design, successfully landed on Venus. Many of them continued operating long enough to send back audio, images, and various measurements, though ...
Psychonaut's user avatar
25 votes
4 answers
14k views

Is Nibiru real or totally science fiction?

I have seen lots of YouTube videos taking about Nibiru. They say, that Nibiru is approaching towards earth. Few of the videos claim that space maps (Google) hide Nibiru with a black patch. Few years ...
Ubi.B's user avatar
  • 492
21 votes
3 answers
1k views

What exactly causes stranded upper stages to explode?

Usually if an upper stage experiences a failure before it can "passivate" itself (empty tanks, drain batteries, etc.), it's only a matter of time before it explodes. For recent examples, see any of ...
user avatar
21 votes
1 answer
4k views

How is the International Space Station protected against orbital debris?

ISS is at an altitude of about 400 km (approximately). But there will be some of space debris at that altitude (since some of the space debris orbits decay over time). So the debris has a probability ...
Hash's user avatar
  • 18k
20 votes
5 answers
8k views

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 ...
Rodo's user avatar
  • 859
20 votes
3 answers
3k views

Space debris half life

In case there will be zero space launches starting at some point in time. How long will it take for the space debris mass in LEO to be halved?
user avatar
20 votes
1 answer
5k views

Why choose to crash the Apollo lunar lander ascent stage after it ascended?

What influenced the end-of-life planning for the Apollo lunar lander ascent stage after it ascended and the crew returned to the command module? I was looking at Wikipedia for Apollo Lunar Module. It ...
tahsmith's user avatar
  • 343
20 votes
4 answers
2k views

Any possible setbacks in deorbiting larger space junk and let it burn up upon reentry into atmosphere?

Space junk, orbital debris, or space waste pose a risk on functional satellites and space laboratories / stations in orbit around Earth. According to Wikipedia: Currently about 19,000 pieces of ...
TildalWave's user avatar
  • 75.9k
19 votes
3 answers
2k views

How much of a problem is space junk, and how can we clean it up?

A lot is heard about space junk these days, but how much of a problem is it really to orbiting satellites? Are there many cases of spacecraft being damaged by it, or is it a bit overhyped? Following ...
berry120's user avatar
  • 2,033
19 votes
1 answer
552 views

Criticality in space junk

What density of satellites in LEO is permissible before a single collision has a reasonable chance of triggering the catastrophic destruction of everything in orbit? How many orders of magnitude are ...
Rex Kerr's user avatar
  • 293
18 votes
2 answers
4k views

Should man-made satellites feature an intelligent inverted "cow catcher"?

Disclaimer: I have no formal education in science. Also, I'm a dummy! Locomotives usually feature a shield that deflects objects on a train's track. My understanding is that since satellites ...
Ruminator's user avatar
  • 307
18 votes
4 answers
1k views

Can I get higher with Space Junk?

There is a whole bunch of space junk; Wikipedia says there are about 19,000 pieces of junk being tracked. With no clouds, solar energy is readily available, so the biggest missing ingredient for ...
James Jenkins's user avatar
16 votes
4 answers
3k views

What are the conditions for re-entry of an object in a (highly) elliptical orbit?

There's something I don't understand: When it comes to de-commissioned satellites, rocket bodies etc. I thought one way of re-entry was via a highly elliptical orbit: The perigee gets low enough (app....
eerie's user avatar
  • 439
16 votes
2 answers
3k views

How does a spacecraft such as Soyuz detect when it's on collision course with an object?

Today Roscosmos reported (in Russian, here's a machine translation into English) that the Soyuz vehicle on its way to the ISS avoided collision with a piece of Japanese rocket body, allegedly launched ...
user avatar
16 votes
1 answer
4k views

What is the biggest piece of space junk?

What is the biggest of space junk in orbit? What was it used for and is there a picture? Source: Wikipedia
Muze's user avatar
  • 1
16 votes
3 answers
2k views

How much do orbital debris cost annually to satellite operators?

Is there any assessment of the annual cost of orbital debris for satellite operators? I am interested in all kind causes of costs, such as: damages to satellites in orbit human-hours spent on ...
Franck Dernoncourt's user avatar
16 votes
3 answers
1k views

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 ...
iamfran's user avatar
  • 163
16 votes
1 answer
952 views

What will J002E3 be like on its return?

J002E3 is believed to be the S-IVB third stage of the Apollo 12 rocket. It is expected to return to temporary Earth orbit in the 2040's. If some enterprising soul decided to build a rocket capable ...
Baldrickk's user avatar
  • 2,426
15 votes
2 answers
3k views

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 ...
user avatar
15 votes
1 answer
3k views

Why aren't there any active space debris removal systems implemented currently?

As of July 2013, estimates of more than 170 million debris smaller than 1 cm (0.4 in), about 670,000 debris 1–10 cm, and approximately 29,000 larger pieces of debris are in orbit. Space debris poses ...
user avatar
15 votes
2 answers
2k views

How bad is Kessler Syndrome?

From what I gather, the general consensus seems to be that if a satellite collision took place in LEO, then it would probably start a chain reaction, creating a debris cloud that could stop mankind's ...
Vedant Chandra's user avatar
14 votes
1 answer
3k views

How dangerous is tossing equipment off the ISS?

On 2023 June 22, during an ISS spacewalk, Sergey Prokopyev and Dmitry Petelin "tossed overboard" three no longer needed devices, "off the back of the space station in a direction that ...
Camille Goudeseune's user avatar
14 votes
2 answers
2k views

Artificial Shooting Stars - how could this possibly work (economically/technologically)?

update March 2018: I just saw this in Buzzfeed (Google sent me there, I don't normally read it): Rich People Will Soon Be Able To Buy Fake Meteor Showers On Demand @Antzi mentioned below the question ...
uhoh's user avatar
  • 149k
14 votes
1 answer
409 views

How does the US's 2008 debris cloud compare to India's 2019 and China's 2007 contributions?

The NPR News article NASA: Debris From India's Anti-Satellite Test Raised Threat To Space Station discusses last week's antisatellite test by India described further in answers to India just shot down ...
uhoh's user avatar
  • 149k
14 votes
1 answer
1k views

Space Station Battle: Could the Almaz gun depressurize the ISS?

Background The second Soviet Almaz military space station both had and tested an externally-mounted autocannon, specifically a Rikhter R-23 (according to some sources). It had 32 rounds of ammunition....
1337joe's user avatar
  • 7,216
13 votes
4 answers
1k views

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 ...
Jonathan L.'s user avatar
13 votes
2 answers
2k views

What are the mystery Falcon 9 v 1.1 objects?

There are 20 objects in orbit associated with the Falcon 9 v 1.1 launch. So far only 1 has been identified. 5 were payloads of the launch, plus the booster and some debris. Bottom line, 11 objects ...
PearsonArtPhoto's user avatar
  • 121k
13 votes
3 answers
659 views

Can orbital debris be assembled into a module for space exploration?

Wikipedia writes to say Currently, about 19,000 pieces of debris larger than 5 cm (2.0 in) are tracked, with another 300,000 pieces smaller than 1 cm below 2000 km altitude. For comparison, the ...
Everyone's user avatar
  • 13.6k
13 votes
3 answers
973 views

Does it snow in LEO?

How does water spray behave in Low Earth Orbit (LEO), from the side exposed to the Sun to the side in Earth's shadow? Could it be used as means of augmenting atmospheric drag and deorbiting defunct ...
TildalWave's user avatar
  • 75.9k
13 votes
1 answer
903 views

What is the legal status of in orbit space debris?

In particular, are there any established property rights? Questions have been asked about the legal status of asteroid mining here. The answer comes from the Outer Space Treaty of 1967. However, that ...
webelo's user avatar
  • 233
13 votes
2 answers
1k views

Do space agencies take measures to prevent spent upper stages from becoming space junk?

I've been playing a lot of Kerbal Space Program lately. I've launched quite a few "half-failed" missions where my craft will get to where it's going, or very close to it, only for me to realize that ...
Iszi's user avatar
  • 413
13 votes
1 answer
235 views

What was the earliest piece of debris to survive reentry?

Most orbital debris eventually re-enters the atmosphere. The vast majority of this burns up on re-entry, and only a small proportion of what's left lands on the surface. Of that small proportion, the ...
Andrew is gone's user avatar
12 votes
4 answers
4k views

Have any bits of a space mission ever collided with a planet or large moon (not Earth) that was not a target of the mission?

For example, a mission to Mars for which some bit of hardware ended up entering Venus's atmosphere. Has this ever happened, or at least are there projections that it may happen?
Starship - On Strike's user avatar
12 votes
2 answers
672 views

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 ...
Rodo's user avatar
  • 859

1
2 3 4 5 6