Space debris: A Quantitative Analysis Of The In-orbit Collision Risk And Its Effects On The Earth | Space


The amount of space debris has not stopped increasing since the first satellite was launched in 1957. The European Space Agency (ESA) estimates that there are more than 131,000,000 useless space waste objects, between 1 millimeter and 10 centimeters, currently orbiting around the Earth at an average speed of 36,000 kilometers per hour, which come from different sources such as last stages of rockets, satellites that are no longer operational, and even tools lost in space by astronauts.

“Any piece larger than 1 centimeter is potentially lethal in case of collision”, says the Professor at the University of Malaga José Luis Torres, who, together with Professor Anelí Bongers, has coordinated a project on Space Economy that establishes, from a quantitative point of view, a theoretical model that determines the rate of satellite launches that is optimal to maximize benefits based on the amount of space debris.

Particularly, using data from the NASA and the ESA, the developed model is based on computational simulations that analyze the effects of anti-satellite tests on the amount of space debris and the probability of collision with operational satellites –there are currently around 6,000 satellites in orbit.

This way, the model proposed by these researchers at the UMA, which has been published in the scientific journal Defense and Peace Economics, dynamically determines the amount of space debris based on the optimal behavior of companies operating in space when establishing the rate of launches and the number of satellites.

According to these experts, the number…

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