Earths outer atmosphere is facing a unique problem, it is overcrowded. Even though we are a part of an ever-expanding universe the issue has become a reality for space explorers.
If you have seen critically acclaimed Hollywood flick Gravity, you may be able to relate easily with the current problem. One of the major plot points is that of satellite shrapnel causing a disastrous series of events in space.
In recent times, SpaceX has emerged as the largest player in the space launching and research business. With its Starlink project that plans to have a mega-constellations of 12,000 to 40,000 satellites in space in order to provide internet services to remote locations around the world.
Commenting on the issue, Rocket Lab CEO Peter Beck says:
This has a massive impact on the launch side (rockets) have to try and weave their way up in between these [satellite] constellations
The company is already beginning to experience the effect of growing congestion in outer space he told CNN.
Astrophysicist Donald Kessler predicted for such an event. He postulated that due to space debris, and active and defunct satellites, the earth’s outer space will become so overcrowded and polluted making future space expeditions and satellite launch projects difficult which is also called Kessler Syndrome. Now this prediction seems to be coming true.
Researchers have been warning for space congestion and its consequences for decades now. Since the launch of Sputnik in 1957, the earth’s atmosphere has been having regular guests from the surface. Since the last few years, the frequency of these guests has increased tremendously.
The Earth’s atmosphere is regulated by the Outer Space Treaty which came into effect in 1967, except prohibiting the placing of nuclear weapons in space, it doesn’t provide any clear regulation regarding other aspects of space exploration activities.
The amount of space junk that is already present and with the continuous launch of satellites, the threat of a space collision seems inevitable. In an incident of September 2019, when the European Space Agency had to remove its satellite using the evasive maneuver to avoid collision with a SpaceX satellite.
Amazon.com Inc is also planning to enter space exploration business with a similar project like Starlink called Kuiper. Scientists around the world are expressing their frustration as cleaning up this space junk with an ever-increasing number of new satellites entering Earth’s orbit is next to impossible without any damages to existing ones.