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How does Space Debris Threaten the ISS?

Our Space Debris Expert is back to answer questions about protecting the International Space Station, the consequences of a debris cloud, and how we track space debris.

The International Space Station. Photo courtesy NASA.

How small and how large is space debris?

Why is small debris a problem?

What is an on-orbit breakup, how do they happen and what can be done about it?

Known orbit planes of Fengyun-1C debris one month after its disintegration by a Chinese interceptor missile in 2007. The white orbit represents the International Space Station

Are chain-reaction collisions or cascades real?

What does an on-orbit collision look like?

Hypervelocity impact test to a cylinder by a 3.17mm aluminum projectile traveling at 7.03 km/sec. Video courtesy NASA WSTF

What are debris clouds?

Can we protect the ISS and other satellites?

Impact on Whipple shields. Image courtesy NASA.

Are some orbits more dangerous than others?

Who is responsible for creating and controlling space debris?

Can you see space debris coming?

The Space Surveillance Network of radar and sensors.

Is there an “air traffic control” equivalent for space?

If most debris is too small to be seen, how do we know it exists?

LeoLabs tracks current satellites in Low Earth Orbit with their visualization tool. Image Courtesy LeoLabs

How far in advance can you predict a collision or a reentry?

If we know about it in advance, can space debris be identified and moved to avoid a collision?

Will the space debris problem take care of itself?

How much debris is there? How many objects are in orbit?

Can space debris be cleaned up?

Will space debris eventually make it impossible to fly or operate in space?



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