Space Junk Problem Is More Threatening Than Ever, Report Warns

Artist conception of space debris in low Earth orbit (Credit: Australia's Electro Optic Systems).

Clara Moskowitz on about an independent report on the increasing issue of orbital debris, and the consequent risk of triggering the Kessler syndrome:

There is so much junk in space that collisions could start to increase exponentially, leading to a continuously growing pile of rubble in orbit, a new report warns.

“Space is becoming essential to our current civilization,” Donald Kessler, chairman of the report committee and retired head of NASA’s Orbital Debris Program Office, told “If for any reason we weren’t able to use satellites as easily as we do today, there would be a reduction in the standard of living.”

The situation we’re in now is called the Kessler Syndrome, a term named after Kessler, in which the amount of debris has reached a critical threshold. There is now enough orbital debris that collisions will cause a continual cascade, with each adding to the total amount of debris and increasing the chances of further collisions, according to several studies, Kessler said.

“Even if we add nothing else to orbit, the amount of debris could continue to increase as a result of random collisions between fairly large objects,” Kessler said. “You’d generate debris faster than the natural decay process could return it.”

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About the author

Andrea Gini

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Andrea Gini is a content strategy consultant specialized in companies of the space sector. He is founder of Space Safety Magazine, where he held the position of Editor-in-Chief until March 2015. Between 2011 and 2013 he worked in the European Space Agency in the Independent Safety Office, which overviews the utilization of the International Space Station. He previously worked as Software Developer, IT Consultant, and trainer of Java-related technologies. Andrea holds a BSc and an MSc in computer science from the University of Milano, a Master in Communication of Science from the International School for Advanced Studies of Trieste and a MSc in Space Studies from the International Space University.