In a report released on Friday, the European Space Agency (ESA) counts more than 30,000 space debris in Earth’s orbit, which are regularly identified and monitored by surveillance networks.
ESA’s 2022 space environment report, which records 30,920 rubbish in Earth’s orbit, highlights that the amount of space debris continues to grow.
According to the report, more and more satellites are being sent into space, including constellations of small communications satellites, and few will be removed from the “congested” low Earth orbit at the end of its mission.
According to ESA, there are 8,300 satellites in space, of which 5,400 are active. Many satellites need to be removed from targets (rockets, spacecraft, satellites) that were launched several decades ago and are fragmented.
In April, one of the satellites in the European Earth observation program Copernicus had to perform a maneuver to avoid a collision with a piece of rocket launch 30 years ago.
According to the ESA report, the number of fractures, explosions, collisions or anomalous events that led to fragmentation is over 630.
Not all space debris is cataloged and tracked. Based on statistical models, ESA estimates that there are 36,500 rubbish larger than 10 cm, more than one million between 1 and 10 cm and 130 million between 1 mm and 1 cm.
The ClearSpace-1 operation, scheduled to be launched in 2025, is ESA’s first to remove space debris, in this case a piece of rocket.