Why 60 years Space Junk will make future Manned Missions difficult

Space Junk might not be Jamaica’s Biggest concern.

Especially as Russian space debris keeps falling from the sky (Helsel, 2015, December 23) as witnessed by Americans in Nevada and California! But it will soon be, as the 20,000 pieces of floating junk (Styles, 2015, December 23) will affect Global communications to a small extent.

MICO Wars - Why 60 years Space Junk will make future Manned Missions difficult - 23-12-2015 LHDEER (1)

More importantly, it will affect our ability to travel into space in the future to quote Dr Stuart Grey from UCL’s Space Geodesy and Navigation Laboratory: “Space junk poses a very real danger to both manned and unmanned space missions. The International space station has to manoeuvre multiple times per year to avoid incoming space debris.”

To illustrate how big a problem it has become, Dr Stuart Grey from UCL’s Space Geodesy and Navigation Laboratory created a YouTube video to visualized the problem in dramatic fashion, no suspenseful music needed.

Here are some quick facts on space Debris:

  • 1 object in space in 1957, Sputnik
  • 5,000 objects in space in 1980
  • 9,000 objects in space in 1990

Alone the way, different space missions added more and more space junk compounding the problem. A Chinese missile tests placed 2,000 new bits and pieces into orbit in 2007 and more recently, a space collision between Cosmos 2251 and Iridium 33 satellites in 2009 added 1,000 pieces.

So what to do about it?

Space Junk piling up in space – Space Exploration in Jeopardy in the next 5 years

Plans have been proposed but nothing has actually been implemented, to quote Dr. Stewart: “There are a number of different proposals for removing particularly dangerous items of space junk, like defunct satellites. These include harpoons and nets to capture the piece of space junk and drag it down into the atmosphere so it burns up.”

FILE - An undated handout photo for the European Space Agency ESA shows a computer simulation made by the Institute for Air and Spacesystems at the Technical University of Braunschweig, Germany, of the distribution and movement of space debris at present and in future. (AP Photo/TU Braunschweig, File)

To make matters worse, more stuff is being added. Jeff Bezos Blue Origins and Elon Musk SpaceX (Knapp, 2015, December 21) will add more debris. Then there is Google’s ambition for a space based Internet (Deer, 2014, June 27) for the poor as well as to power their global Drone Package Delivery (Deer, 2014, August 29) ambitions.

Other contractors such as Bigelow AeroSpace’s Bigelow Expandable Activity Module (Deer, 2015, January 5), which is being considered by NASA for their (Foust, 2015, November 24) CisLunar Habitats to test systems for later Mars missions, will find this cloud of debris challenging.

This as it’s predicted to increase, not decrease, as most of the debris hasn’t fallen out of orbit, increasing the possibility of collisions as pointed out by Dr Stuart Grey, quote: “The number of pieces of debris will increase with each space mission launched but also with any collisions between objects already in orbit. The number of satellites in these proposed internet constellations are unprecedented, in the hundreds to thousands of satellites”.

Space travel cannot be put on hold, as projects such as the US Air Force contract to Lockheed Martin to upgrade their GPS Network (Lockheed Martin, 2013, December 16) have to go forward.

But eventually, when humans have to be sent into space again, beyond our orbit, the issue of clearing some 60 years of space garbage, possibly using a space dumpa truck (Deer, 2011, January 8) or a space laser (Deer, 2014, March 11), will resurface once more.


  1. Deer, L. (2011, January 8). Private Space Enterprise and Space Junk – Dumpa Truck. Retrieved from http://mythoughtsontechnologyandjamaica.blogspot.com/2011/01/private-space-enterprise-and-space-junk.html
  2. Lockheed Martin. (2013, December 16). U.S. Air Force Awards Lockheed Martin Contract to Complete Two More GPS III Satellites. Retrieved from http://www.lockheedmartin.com/us/news/press-releases/2013/december/1213-ss-gps3.html
  3. Deer, L. (2014, March 11). Australian Government and NASA laser to Destroy Asteroids and Space Debris. Retrieved from  http://mythoughtsontechnologyandjamaica.blogspot.com/2014/03/australian-government-and-nasa-planning.html
  4. Deer, L. (2014, June 27). Google and O3B Network Limited partner on Satellite Broadband Project – How to set up a Satellite Broadband Network. Retrieved from http://mythoughtsontechnologyandjamaica.blogspot.com/2014/06/google-and-o3b-network-limited-partner.html
  5. Deer, L. (2014, August 29). How @Google X Labs Project Wing uses Global Satellite Network for Drone Delivery. Retrieved from http://mythoughtsontechnologyandjamaica.blogspot.com/2014/08/google-x-labs-project-wing-how-to-own.html
  6. Deer, L. (2015, January 5). Bigelow AeroSpace’s Bigelow Expandable Activity Module – Italian Mafia Bigelow AeroSpace Alpha Station Casino using inflatable BEAM Modules. Retrieved from http://mythoughtsontechnologyandjamaica.blogspot.com/2015/01/bigelow-aerospaces-bigelow-expandable.html
  7. Foust, J. (2015, November 24). NASA Considers Uses for Cislunar Habitat. Retrieved from http://spacenews.com/nasa-considers-uses-for-cislunar-habitat/
  8. Knapp, A. (2015, December 21). SpaceX Launches And Lands Its Falcon 9 Rocket Successfully. Retrieved from http://www.forbes.com/sites/alexknapp/2015/12/21/spacex-launches-and- lands-its-falcon-9-rocket-successfully/
  9. Styles, K. (2015, December 23). This data visualisation shows the 20,000 pieces of space junk floating around earth. Retrieved from http://thenextweb.com/insider/2015/12/23/this-data-visualisation-shows-the-20000-pieces-of-space-junk-floating-around-earth/
  10. Helsel, P. (2015, December 23). Streaking Light in Sky Seen From Nevada, California Was Russian Space Debris. Retrieved from http://www.nbcnews.com/news/us-news/streaking-light-dazzles-above-nevada-skies-n484851

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