European Space Agency Counts 30,000+ Space Debris from Small Satellite Launches

11th May 2022
European Space Agency Counts 30,000+ Space Debris from Small Satellite Launches

In April 2022, the European Space Agency counted the number of space debris items from small satellites in orbit and came up with an alarming figure of almost 31,000. According to ESA, the number of space junk pieces freely floating in orbit keeps increasing, posing a significant danger of collisions with operating spacecraft.

How many satellites are orbiting the Earth in 2022?

The total number of small satellites in space now stands at 8,300, with 5,400 active satellites and around 2,900 dead satellites. According to the latest ESA report issued in April 2022, the quantity of space debris keeps on growing as ever more companies launch small satellites to low Earth orbit. The European Space Agency says that LEO is already heavily crowded, with 30,920 space junk pieces floating in orbit. Most of the space debris are fragments from spacecraft launches decades ago. In April 2022, one of the Copernicus Earth Observation satellites had to carry out a manoeuvre to avoid collision with a rocket fragment launched 30 years ago.

European Space Agency Space Junk Cleanup

The biggest problem with current space debris is that not all space junk pieces in orbit are properly tracked and indexed. Considering ESA’s latest calculations, the number of space junk pieces larger than 10cm in diameter will soon increase to 36,500. As to the smaller particles, the figure already exceeds 130 million.

The European Space Agency is already working on missions to remove space debris from orbits to make them safe again. One of such ESA space junk removal missions, ClearSpace-1, is scheduled for 2025, with more coming along the way from private companies.

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