Space at risk

Space at Risk

Space is critical for our life, and it is at risk.

Approximately 7500 active satellites around earth provide services that enable our globalised lifestyle and the handling of global challenges:

Earth observation and weather prediction allow us to gather information about climate change, humanitarian crises and to plan green energy production.

Navigation systems and communication satellites not only enable the global relationships we are used to, but are a key factor for feeding the world and keeping global logistics up and running.

If two satellites collide, they are not destroyed and gone but disintegrate into a cloud of shrapnel-like bits and pieces that flies through orbit in their place. This cloud of debris can cause further collisions – increasing the risk of a chain reaction which could cause us to lose access to space as a whole.

This would be disastrous for all of our industrial society, but should we really be afraid? Arguably there is a lot of… you know… space up there?

Traffic in space increases as national space programs as well as private enterprises launch satellites at an accelerated pace. The amount of satellites nearly doubled between 2016 and 2022 and the amount of trash, like discarded rocked bodies, fragments of collisions and inactive satellites, has become an unavoidable obstacle when planning and executing space missions. The catalogue of observed objects counts more than 25.000 objects, with millions more which are too small to track from earth.

We hear about fragmentation events, near-collisions and last-minute avoidance manoeuvres at an alarmingly increasing rate.

Public awareness of this problem is low, global political engagement still lacking but incident rates are escalating. Collectively, we must intensify our search for solutions now. Our approach is to quantify the development of this risk not by looking at the amount of objects around earth, but by looking at how often these objects meet:

The purple line on this chart shows the number of objects in low earth orbit, with a maximum height of 2000km. The yellow line shows the amount of conjunctions that these objects have. A conjunction occurs every time two objects meet at a distance of less than 5km. This chart shows that the increase in traffic is a recent development. Since January of 2022 we reached a critical tipping point, where the number of conjunctions surpassed the number of objects consistently. The peaks, e.g. in April 2022, are concerning as well, and show the actual consequences of space warfare interfering with the growing mega constellations which will define our experience of and in space for the upcoming decades.

contribution to conjunctions per group/constellation

The work of the Impressive Company focusses on the causes and consequences of our collective behaviour in orbit. In cooperation with Space Analyses GmbH and the European Space Agency we automate services for space traffic analyses, build VR experiences as well as write thrillers about humanity dealing with the consequences.

If you are interested in our activities regarding space sustainability, get in contact with us.