Climate change may be worsening Space Junk, study

In a recently presented research paper at the eighth European Conference on Space Debris, researchers claim a possible link between space debris and rapidly changing climate change. According to the research, climate change may be making the space debris problem worse.

The research paper says that the carbon dioxide levels in our planet’s upper atmosphere are leading to reduced density. Lower density means that space debris designed to burn up in this area and may experience less pull and eventually fail to burn up.

Humans are leaving too many dead satellites up in space that was sent for operations after their lifetime ends become dead and roam around the earth. Space junk may pose a serious threat to future generations. Research to solve this issue has seen a rise in the last few years.

Burn up in space

Earth’s atmosphere has the power of pulling orbiting debris downwards and burn them in the lower atmosphere. However, carbon levels in the lower atmosphere are increasing and lowering the density of the upper atmosphere, diminishing the burn-up effect.

According to the published paper, the problem of space junk is underrated by humans, and due to climate change space junk could increase by over 50 percent by 2021.

“The numbers took us by surprise, there is genuine cause for alarm,” said Hugh Lewis, a space debris expert from the University of Southampton in England and a co-author on the research paper.

Space junk

More than 2,500 objects, size up to four inches are orbiting below 250 miles around the earth. As per the study, if fewer objects are dragged into the lower atmosphere in the next four decades more objects will end up orbiting the earth.

Research to understand the less dense upper atmosphere is in the process. Only when humans understand the impact, seriousness towards growing space junk will increase and actions to solve the problem will also grow among countries that create the junk.

More companies are now planning to launch their satellites and use space to grow their operations. Companies like SpaceX, Amazon which are planning to build space constellations with thousands of satellites to provide internet and other services can worsen the present situation.

US FCC

According to the U.S. Federal Communications Commission, companies use NASA’s Debris Assessment software to estimate the line life of satellites in lower Earth orbit. The commission also approved SpaceX’s request to decrease the orbits of nearly 3000 satellites of their Starlink constellation. 

The commission is not yet in plans to change its program to address findings revealed in the research paper.

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