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Space & Astronomy

Could orbiting space junk cause World War 3 ?

January 26, 2016 | Comment icon 11 comments



NASA diagram demonstrating the extent to which Earth's orbit is littered with debris. Image Credit: NASA
Scientists have warned that space debris collisions could have the potential to provoke armed conflict.
Space junk already represents a significant hazard to satellites and spacecraft, but now scientists in Russia have published a new report claiming that it could also have the potential to start a war.

The main problem, they argue, is that there is no way to tell whether a damaged satellite was hit by a fragment of debris or if it was deliberately sabotaged by another country.

Even the smallest pieces of debris, even objects a few millimeters across, can cause irreparable damage to a satellite because they are traveling at speeds of up to 17,500mph.
"The owner of the impacted and destroyed satellite can hardly quickly determine the real cause of the accident," wrote astrophysicist Vitaly Adushkin who concluded that such an event "may provoke political or even armed conflict between space-faring nations."

One such example occurred in 2013 when a Russian satellite was damaged by debris created by China when it shot down one of its own weather satellites five years earlier.

The International Space Station is also often forced to take evasive action to avoid space junk.

The report concluded that unless something is done to curb the quantity of debris in orbit then collisions will become increasingly likely - as will the potential for associated political strife.

Source: Independent | Comments (11)


Recent comments on this story
Comment icon #2 Posted by Gecks 7 years ago
Soooooo Russias saying if one of their satellites gets damaged up there, rather than investigate we will just start bombing other countries?
Comment icon #3 Posted by Summerin1905 7 years ago
well we do have scientists for a reason...
Comment icon #4 Posted by pallidin 7 years ago
Soooooo Russias saying if one of their satellites gets damaged up there, rather than investigate we will just start bombing other countries? Well, not really. Of course they would investigate the cause, including the possibility that space junk or other space issues was the actual culprit.
Comment icon #5 Posted by Ell 7 years ago
What is the half life of this space junk?
Comment icon #6 Posted by Chibadiba 7 years ago
What we need to do is when we send up something it would also contain some type of shielding to prevent space junk from hitting the object in the first place.
Comment icon #7 Posted by third_eye 7 years ago
To put it all in perspective ~ - - Dec 20, 2015 - Uploaded by Stuart Grey Almost 20000 pieces of space debris are currently orbiting the Earth. This visualisation, created by Dr Stuart Grey `
Comment icon #8 Posted by pallidin 7 years ago
What is the half life of this space junk? Good question. I don't know, but I think that some orbital debris "fall" into the earth's atmosphere and burn-up. Other orbital debris tend to orbit the Earth for great periods of time... decades, centuries even.
Comment icon #9 Posted by FateAmeniableToChange 7 years ago
Id imagine that the half life of the debris would be a very long time indeed!. It being in a potentially permanent orbit due to earths gravitational pull. You would think that only another objects gravitational pull over time would perhaps change this.
Comment icon #10 Posted by Waspie_Dwarf 7 years ago
Id imagine that the half life of the debris would be a very long time indeed!. Not true, it can be as little as days or weeks if the orbit is low enough. It being in a potentially permanent orbit due to earths gravitational pull. You would think that only another objects gravitational pull over time would perhaps change this. That's not the case for objects in low Earth orbit. Even several hundred miles up the Earth's atmosphere, whilst extremely tenuous, still has an affect on orbiting objects. The friction between the extremely thin atmosphere and the satellite/debris causes a tiny slowing o... [More]
Comment icon #11 Posted by FateAmeniableToChange 7 years ago
Waspie_Dwarf what do you think is the best way for space agencies and governments to deal with this hazard?


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