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Space junk may cause armed conflict

 
 
 
 
 
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The earth, humans’ only ship in the cosmic ocean, is engulfed by millions of space junk, which can cause serious damage to any national satellite, a signal which might be misconstrued as an attack launched by an adversary and provoke an armed conflict.

In an article published by journal Acta Astronautica, Russian scientist Vitaly Adushkin argues that possible impacts from orbital debris, even tiny ones, particularly on military satellites may pose “special danger” and “provoke political or even armed conflict between space-faring nations,” since the owner of the damaged or destroyed satellite “can hardly quickly determine the real cause of the accident.”

Since the beginning of the Space Age some 60 years ago, over 5,000 launches towards space have left the Earth’s orbits with countless of debris. According to NASA, some 500,000 pieces of junk, the size of a marble or larger, are wandering around the planet in different orbits, which can slam into spacecraft at a speed of more than 28,000 kilometers per hour (17,500 mph).

Of this host of objects, some 23,000 are larger than a softball and there are also hundreds of millions of others that are so small they can hardly be tracked.

The danger posed by these wandering objects is greater when they are traveling in low Earth orbit (LEO), since it is home, particularly, to most military satellites. The LEO stretches from 160 kilometers (99 miles) to 2,000 kilometers (1,200 miles) above the surface.

In 2007, china shot down one of its old climate satellites by a missile, and created at least 3,000 more space fragments in orbit. Six years later, a Russian satellite was disabled, apparently, due to collision with some of the debris produced by the smashed Chinese satellite.

According to Adushkin, these kinds of “cascade process” are quite probable in an orbit teeming with space debris slamming into one another and creating smaller pieces.

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