space debris


The Fukang Meteorite

Back in the year 2000, an incredible meteorite weighing 2,211 pounds was discovered near Fukang, a city located in the northwestern region of Xinjiang, China. Named the Funkang meteorite, it was identified as a pallasite, a type of stony–iron meteorite. With 4.5 billion years in the making, its golden olivine mixed with silvery nickel-iron to create a stunningly beautiful mosaic effect.

Pallasites are extremely rare even among meteorites (only about 1% of all meteorites are this type) and Fukang has been hailed as one of the greatest meteorite discoveries of the 21st century.

It has since been divided into slices which give the effect of stained glass when the sun shines through them. It is so valuable that even tiny chunks sell in the region for $40 to $60 a gram. An anonymous collector holds the largest portion, which weighs 925 pounds.

Space pollution: Every Known Piece of Space Debris Orbiting Earth

The image above was created by German photographer Michael Najjar, a “certified civilian astronauts” who has a ticket to go to space on board Richard Branson’s Virgin Galactic SpaceShipTwo in 2014. He titled the piece “Space Debris I”.



In 2002 a small asteroid known as J002E3 was discovered on a near earth orbit. It was first spotted by an amateur astronomer, Bill Yeung and was reported as a passing Near-Earth Object. Soon, however, the object’s motion suggested it wasn’t just passing by, it was in an orbit around the Earth. Its trajectory had all the telltale signs of being a space debris and further observations have also confirmed that the object’s spectral signature matched the white titanium dioxide paint used on Apollo rockets. J002E3 is most likely to be the third stage of the rocket that launched Apollo 12, which failed to crash on the Moon as planned. NASA used such impacts to generate ‘Moonquakes’ that could be studied by lunar seismographs to gain information on the Moon’s interior.

J002E3’s orbit is a bit unusual but not unique; the object spends some time in the Sun-Earth first Lagrange point (L1), then loops around Earth, reaches escape velocity in the process and flies back into heliocentric orbit where it currently resides. Although its orbit is constantly changing because of gravitational perturbations by the Sun and Moon, J002E3 is expected to come back around the mid 2040s.

"Space architecture, in its simplest definition, is the theory and practice of designing and building inhabited environments in outer space.” - Wikipedia


Notes at the bottom:

(1) Europe: ESA(European Space Agency; Include cooperations with USA and Russia)
(2)International: satellites developed by an international organization, either Intelsat or Inmarsat
(3)Every dot stands for two pieces of space debris


Skylab 1973 (Full 23 Min Documentary)

40 years later……

First satellite to be launched for the sole purpose of cleaning out the debris in our orbit. A tip of my hat to the Swiss.

Space junk is getting to be more and more of a problem, but while there have been plenty of serious talks on the subject, the first country to actually go and do something about it may be the Swiss. By 2016, Switzerland plans to launch a “janitor satellite” to start fighting the the space junk problem directly while the rest of us keep twiddling our thumbs.

CleanSpace One is, as far as we know, the first purpose-built spacecraft designed from the ground up to tackle the space junk problem directly. Costing just under $11 million, it’s simple, cheap, and hopefully, it’ll be effective. At only about a foot on a side and two feet long, CleanSpace One isn’t what you’d call intimidating, but it doesn’t need to be. After launch, the satellite will rendezvous with its target using a new kind of ultra-compact space engine, and once it gets within range, it’ll shoot out some sort of crazy plant-inspired grappling tendrils to grab onto the junk. Once it’s got hold, CleanSpace One will fire up its engine and drag the junk down into the atmosphere with it, burning them both to dust.

(Article Via)


Space debris populations seen from outside geosynchronous orbit (GEO). Note the two primary debris fields, the ring of objects in GEO, and the cloud of objects in low earth orbit (LEO).

Space debris is the collection of defunct objects in orbit around Earth. This includes everything from spent rocket stages, old satellites, fragments from disintegration, erosion, and collisions. Since orbits overlap with new spacecraft, debris may collide with operational spacecraft.

Currently about 19,000 pieces of debris larger than 5 cm are tracked, with another 300,000 pieces smaller than 1 cm below 2000 km altitude.

Safety from debris over 10 cm (3.9 in), comes from maneuvering a spacecraft to avoid a collision. As the chance of collision is influenced by the number of objects in space, there is a critical density where the creation of new debris occurs faster than the various natural forces remove them. Beyond this point a runaway chain reaction may occur that pulverizes everything in orbit, including functioning satellites. Called the “Kessler syndrome”, there is debate if the critical density has already been reached in certain orbital bands. One implication is that the distribution of debris in orbit could render space exploration, and even the use of satellites, unfeasible for many generations.


Image source: [NASA Orbital Debris Program Office]