Space Debris Animation From Sputnik To Now

  • Jan 1, 2016 8:39am GMT
  • 340 views

Almost 20,000 pieces of space debris are currently orbiting the Earth ranging from the size of an orange to that of an 18 wheel truck.

The visualization below was created by Dr Stuart Grey, lecturer at University College London part of the Space Geodesy and Navigation Laboratory. It shows how the amount of space debris increased from 1957 to 2015, using the precise location of each piece of junk.

If objects are high enough above the atmosphere, they can orbit for centuries. The body of the rocket used to launch Sputnik was covered in reflectors which were visible from the ground, proving to the world the USSR’s technical prowess 1957. This rocket body can be thought of as the first ever piece of space debris, that is, an object either left behind in orbit or created due to a collision during a space mission.

According to Space-Track.org it can add up quickly. In 2007 a Chinese missile test created over 2000 new pieces of debris while another 2000 were added in 2009 when COSMOS 2251 and IRIDUIM 33 satellites collided.

Click here for a detailed interactive version.

The animation below by Dr. Grey is based on tracking data from Space-Track.org which promotes space flight safety, protection of the space environment and the peaceful use of space worldwide by sharing space situational awareness services and information with U.S. and international satellite owners/operators, academia and other entities.

VIDEO 2 Space debris story (2013) by the European Space Agency, ESA