Could Starlink satellites cause Kessler syndrome? – Future

SpaceX plans to launch up to 42,000 satellites for its Starlink constellation, and this isn’t the only mega-constellation project. With a large amount of space debris already in orbit, the risk of chain collisions is constantly increasing and could result in Earth’s orbit becoming impassable.

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As more satellites are put into orbit, some scientists are increasingly concerned about a chain reaction called Kessler syndrome. The idea is that the number of satellites and debris in orbit could reach a threshold where collisions become too frequent, creating new debris and therefore new collisions. This chain reaction could make it impossible to put new satellites into orbit or even launch spacecraft until the debris falls back to Earth.

Satellites avoid collisions with space debris using automated systems. However, even in low orbit, they are significantly less protected from solar flares and winds than devices on Earth. The Sun reaches a peak of activity every 11 years, with the next one expected in 2024 or 2025, and could potentially disrupt satellite operations or even cause short circuits. They could then be left without an automatic guidance system and trigger a chain reaction of collisions, each time leading to an increase in space debris.

A million pieces of space junk measuring more than a centimeter

There are currently a million pieces of debris larger than a centimeter, of which only 34,670 are tracked and cataloged. The total number of satellites launched at any given time is 15,880, of which approximately 8,600 are still operational. The Starlink constellation in low orbit to provide Internet via satellite alone currently has 4,519 satellites. SpaceX hopes to eventually create a mega-constellation of 42,000 satellites. And other companies like OneWeb and Amazon are building their own constellations.

The risk of being killed by space debris in the coming decade is increasing

One of the proposed solutions is a pre-planned system of safe orbits that maximizes the distance between satellites to avoid collisions. It is currently possible to detect solar flares using telescopes and observation satellites on Earth, in orbit around the Sun or at the L1 Lagrange point. Scientists are warned about the infestation of the earth between 5 p.m. and several days later. Then it would be possible to trigger the emergency solution and put all satellites into their safe orbits to avoid a chain reaction. However, this system would have to be integrated into every satellite, which is currently not the case…

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