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
76
votes
6answers
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 ...
49
votes
4answers
9k 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 ...
42
votes
5answers
14k 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 ...
39
votes
2answers
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) ...
38
votes
4answers
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 ...
38
votes
3answers
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 ...
34
votes
5answers
8k 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 ...
33
votes
4answers
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 ...
31
votes
7answers
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 ...
30
votes
4answers
10k views

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

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. ...
30
votes
4answers
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 ...
30
votes
3answers
14k 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 ...
29
votes
1answer
883 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 ...
29
votes
1answer
3k 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 ...
27
votes
3answers
3k 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 ...
25
votes
4answers
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 ...
25
votes
1answer
3k 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 ...
21
votes
1answer
4k 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 ...
21
votes
4answers
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 ...
21
votes
1answer
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 ...
20
votes
5answers
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 ...
20
votes
3answers
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 ...
19
votes
3answers
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 ...
18
votes
2answers
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 ...
18
votes
3answers
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?
18
votes
4answers
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 ...
18
votes
1answer
515 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 ...
16
votes
2answers
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 ...
16
votes
1answer
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
16
votes
1answer
855 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 ...
15
votes
4answers
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....
15
votes
3answers
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 ...
14
votes
1answer
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 ...
14
votes
2answers
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 ...
14
votes
2answers
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 ...
14
votes
1answer
345 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 ...
13
votes
2answers
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 ...
13
votes
3answers
918 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 ...
13
votes
2answers
953 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 ...
13
votes
1answer
207 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 ...
12
votes
4answers
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 ...
12
votes
3answers
555 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 ...
12
votes
1answer
818 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 ...
12
votes
1answer
439 views

Would recovering a lunar vehicle without permission be space piracy?

My understanding is that no one owns space, but countries retain ownership of the vehicles they put in space. If I as a commercial entity launched a recovery mission to the moon, and brought back ...
12
votes
1answer
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....
11
votes
1answer
2k views

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 ...
11
votes
1answer
278 views

How can I shield against micro-meteors?

It is well known that micro meteorites, space junk, and other small objects can put a dent (Or rip through) in a spacecraft quite effectively. How can I protect people, sensitive electronics, and ...
11
votes
2answers
313 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 ...
11
votes
1answer
260 views

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 ...
10
votes
1answer
1k views

Collision with space junk - Where is it safe? Where is it most dangerous?

I spoke once with a USAF officer involved in keeping our satellites operational and in the proper orbit. He told me that satellites in geo-synchronous orbit are in little danger of colliding with ...

1
2 3 4 5