Increase in orbital traffic from thousands of communications satellites could lead to 50% rise in catastrophic crashes, says study.

Plans to launch “mega constellations” of thousands of communications satellites to allow for global wireless internet could lead to a rise in collisions and build-up of dangerous space junk in Earth’s orbit, a study warns.

Google, SpaceX, Boeing and Samsung are among the companies vying to launch global broadband networks by deploying thousands of tiny satellites into low orbit. The first launches are planned for next year.

Dr Hugh Lewis, a senior lecturer in aerospace engineering at the University of Southampton, ran a 200-year simulation to assess the possible consequences of such a rise in orbital traffic. He found it could create a 50% increase in the number of catastrophic collisions between satellites.
Such crashes would probably lead to a further increase in the amount of space junk in orbit, he said, leading to the possibility of further collisions and potential damage to the services the satellites were intended to provide.

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Image Credit:      University of Southampton/PA

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