Satellites orbiting the Earth are moving like crazy – how do we prevent them from crashing?


In recent years, satellites have become smaller, cheaper, and easier to commercialize from shelf parts. Some weigh less than one gram. This means that more people can send them to class. Now, satellite operators have started working together in clusters of hundreds or even thousands of smaller satellites – mega-constellations – around the Earth.

Instead of one large satellite, clusters of smaller satellites can provide coverage of the entire planet simultaneously. Civil, military and private operators are increasingly using constellations to create global and continuous coverage of the Earth. Constellations can provide a variety of functions, including climate monitoring, disaster management or digital connectivity such as satellite broadband.

But small satellites require a lot of them to provide coverage of the entire planet. On top of this, they have to orbit closer to the surface of the Earth to reduce interruption in coverage and communication delays. This means that they call an already busy area of ​​the Earth’s surface, which is 100 to 2,000 km above the Earth’s surface.

From the dangers of space junk to obstructing our view of the night sky, there are several issues associated with orbiting these many satellites. But the shift towards mega-constellations is also a challenge for global space governance.

Today there are about 3,000 active satellites around the Earth, and it is going to touch the sky in the coming years. For example, the European Commission recently announced plans to launch thousands of satellites into Earth orbit, adding to the growing list of planned mega-constellations.