Since 1986 the European Space Agency has been tracking the amount of space junk orbiting the Earth. As part of this ongoing study, the ESA created a catalog of images to document and illustrate the debris field both in Low Earth Orbit (LEO) and further out in Geostationary Orbit (GEO), and they’ve recently posted new pictures online. The images look straight out of WALL-E. We’ve all heard that there was a lot of crap in space, but this is insane.
Between the launch of Sputnik on 4 October 1957 and 1 January 2008, approximately 4600 launches have placed some 6000 satellites into orbit, of which about 400 are travelling beyond geostationary orbit or on interplanetary trajectories.
Today, it is estimated that only 800 satellites are operational – roughly 45 percent of these are both in LEO and GEO. Space debris comprise the ever-increasing amount of inactive space hardware in orbit around the Earth as well as fragments of spacecraft that have broken up, exploded or otherwise become abandoned. About 50 percent of all trackable objects are due to in-orbit explosion events (about 200) or collision events (less than 10).
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