Skip to main content

Space Junk Explained: How Orbital Debris Threatens Future of Spaceflight (Infographic)

Infographic: Space debris in orbit could cause a chain reaction that would endanger the future of space travel.
High-speed debris from satellite explosions could cause a catastrophic chain reaction, as seen in the movie "Gravity."
(Image: © by Karl Tate, Infographics Artist)

As a result of 50 years of spaceflight, the useful orbits around Earth are littered with derelict satellites, burnt-out rocket stages, discarded trash and other debris. In September 2012, the U.S. Space Surveillance Network tracked about 23,000 orbiting objects larger than 2-4 inches (5-10 centimeters). By extrapolation it is estimated that there could be a total of 750,000 orbiting objects larger than 0.4 inch (1 cm).

Join our Space Forums to keep talking space on the latest missions, night sky and more! And if you have a news tip, correction or comment, let us know at: community@space.com.