Catastrophic Space Debris Events Every 5-9 Years: Report

Catastrophic collisions of space junk and orbital assets are likely to occur every five to nine years, and the space debris population may have already reached a “tipping point,” U.S. congressional researchers say in their latest report.

“Many experts now believe that mitigation efforts alone are insufficient to prevent the continual increase of space debris,” the Congressional Research Service reported Jan. 8. “A growing view among experts holds that some level of active removal of debris from the space environment is necessary. Nevertheless, such efforts are technologically immature and face significant budgetary and legal obstacles.”

Recently highlighted by the Hollywood blockbuster film Gravity, Congress last weighed in on orbital debris in the 2010 NASA reauthorization act when it acknowledged that a “national and international effort is needed to develop a coordinated approach.” Researchers suggest lawmakers consider calling more hearings particularly on “whether mitigation efforts to date are adequate, and whether there should be any commitment to pursue remediation in earnest.”
 The CRS report is at

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Aviation Week is approaching its 100th anniversary in 2016. In a series of blogs, our editors highlight editorial content from the magazine's long and rich history.


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