Earlier this year, India made headlines after it launched a record-breaking 104 satellites into the planet’s orbit. Only three actually look like ‘real’ satellites, while the other 101 are called ‘nanosatellites’ because they don’t weigh more than five or six kilograms.
These can serve a variety of functions, from communications to simple science experiments. Overall, though tiny when compared with more expensive satellites, these instruments help science. At the same time, however, they’re crowding the planet’s orbit.
Already, some routes are too dangerous to launch rockets because the risk of colliding with some space junk is just too big to ignore. In time, the problem will only get worse.
This growing problem was the main attraction of the recent European Conference on Space Debris where thousands of scientists, journalists, and policymakers gathered.