Satellite Dataflow: Objects Orbiting Earth

©1995 The Regents of the University of California

Credit: © Dr. Seth Shostak/Science Photo Library/Photo Researchers, Inc.

Artwork of the distribution of debris (yellow dots) in orbit around the Earth. Some 22,000 artificial objects are in orbit around the Earth. Only a small fraction represents operating satellites; the remainder could be categorized as used rocket bodies, dead payloads, operational debris (such as optics covers and payload attachment hardware) and the consequence of 30 years of payload and rocket fragmentation. These objects are a hazard for future space missions due to the increasing probability of an impact with satellites or spacecrafts. The position of geosynchronous satellites is marked by the inclined ellipse running from bottom left to top right.

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