Space Traffic Management: Trends 2020/2021 and Beyond

Olga Stelmakh-Drescher, Steven R. Freeland

Research output: Contribution to journalOnline ResourceProfessional


[Extract] Space is becoming increasingly congested. The European Space Agency (ESA) has estimated that there are currently 128 million pieces of debris smaller than 1cm, about 900,000 pieces of debris 1–10cm in length, and around 34,000 pieces larger than 10cm in Earth orbit. This is in addition to the approximately 3,300 currently operational satellites.

Given the high orbital velocity of objects in space, any collision – between two or more space objects – could generate thousands more pieces of debris. These could cause more collisions, potentially triggering a cascading and exponential increase in debris called the ‘Kessler effect’, to the point that we might eventually see a “debris belt” around Earth, making the space environment less sustainable, accessible and safe for conducting space operations.
Original languageEnglish
JournalSpaceWatch Global
Publication statusPublished - May 2021
Externally publishedYes


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