Destroying Just 250 Satellites Would Make Orbit ‘Totally Useless’ in 40 Years: STUDY
source: themessenger.com, contributed by Artemus Founder, Bob Wallace | image: pixabay.com
So far human conflicts haven’t spilled into attacking each others’ satellites with missiles, but the technology exists
Should countries begin blowing each others satellites up in a war, it would spell doom for almost all of the technology orbiting the Earth, according to calculations published in a new study.
So far human conflicts haven’t spilled into attacking each others’ satellites with missiles, but the technology exists: In November, 2021, the Russian military tested out its Nudol missile by blowing up a defunct satellite. The explosion created a cloud of thousands of fragments, many of them not trackable due to their size, traveling at thousands of miles per hour around the globe.
In a study published last week in the journal Defence and Peace Economics, two economics professors at Spain’s University of Malaga calculated that should a war erupt where satellites are seen as legitimate targets and 250 of them are destroyed, the amount of debris would increase exponentially over the next five decades.
While the amount of total satellites would dip, the number would likely climb again as governments, militaries and corporations launch new satellites to replace those that were lost — but the fast-moving shards of metal and plastic zipping around the Earth from the initial explosions would soon begin eviscerating even those. The paper shows the amount of satellites in orbit would be down to almost zero within fifty years.
The destruction would make “outer space totally useless for any human activity,” the authors concluded.
The authors did not respond to The Messenger’s request for comment.
The first man-made satellite, Sputnik 1, was launched on Oct. 4, 1957. Today, there are more than 8,000 satellites orbiting the Earth. They play vital roles in modern life, including telecommunications and GPS systems, are widely used for scientific research and have numerous military applications.
In 2022, Vice President Kamala Harris announced that the United States would commit to not deploying destructive anti-satellite weapons and called on other nations to do the same, citing the need to keep space activities safe, stable, secure and sustainable.
While the study’s numbers are based on a hypothetical, the consequences of destroyed satellites have already been very real: After that 2021 Russianb test, the study’s authors point out that astronauts aboard the International Space Station sought refuge in the facility’s emergency escape pods as a precaution against a situation in which the ISS was struck by debris from the blown up satellite.
A representative for the United States Space Force did not reply to an email requesting comment.
Even without militaries firing missiles at the space-based machines, space junk has become a bigger and bigger issue. SpaceX’s satellite fleet, which now numbers in the thousands, had to execute 25,000 evasive maneuvers to avoid collisions in a recent six-month period.Some have proposed solutions to the space junk problem that include space harpoons, nets and cosmic garbage trucks.