It’s amazing we can launch any spacecraft without a collision…

What with all the crap flying around up there. Go check out the ESA pics of LEO objects to get an idea of just how crowded the skies over earth really are. Here’s a pic of the current number of satellites around the planet from the point of view of the equator:


Click to embiggen!

From that point of view it looks like there’s no room for space shuttles and probes to make it into space. Obviously there’s still enough room that it’s not too much trouble, but it was still surprising to see just how much crap we’ve got up there.

4 thoughts on “It’s amazing we can launch any spacecraft without a collision…

  1. This illustration is a bit misleading; our orbital space is still mostly empty.  At this scale, if the objects were as large as shown, they’d be larger than most cities and would cause planetary destruction when their orbits decayed.

    Not to say that it isn’t a big issue if you’re riding in one of those cans.  At orbital interference speeds a loose bolt carries more wallop than any bullet on Earth.  In fact an effective antisatellite weapon would be a bucket of nails in an opposing orbit.

  2. I did realize that the scale was off a bit, but that’s still an impressive amount of stuff up there. I suppose it’s illustrative of the hold that TV and movies have on my perception of satellites that I’ve always imagined there being maybe a couple of dozen of them whizzing around up there in elegant orbits.

  3. Arthur Clarke initially envisioned three manned platforms up at LaGrange orbits, for full Earth coverage.  With guys running around changing the vacuum tubes as they burn out.  And major disruption when one of the recruits turned out to be female under her space suit, having slipped by the contractor regulations…

  4. The picture is still amazing, in terms of the sheer amount of satellites in orbit around our planet.

    It also makes Mother Earth look like she’s got a reeaaaaally bad case of dandruff.

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