2409 new objects were launched into space in 2022, that’s more than ever before.
Last year though, also saw a record number of satellites reenter Earth’s atmosphere.
The rising number of reentries is not necessarily a bad thing. Disposing of satellites efficiently is one of the most important things for keeping low-Earth orbits safe.
However, most objects reenter in an uncontrolled manner: they are switched off at the end of their mission and left to fall and burn up in Earth’s atmosphere.
There is good news though. Advancing technology has seen a recent increase in “controlled reentries” for rocket bodies. A controlled reentry allows operators to remove their hardware from protected regions more quickly and with greater control over where, when and how it reenters – and even lands – at the cost of allocating some fuel to do so.
By the way, just because an older satellite wasn’t designed to be controlled during its descent doesn’t mean it’s impossible to do so. In July 2023, our teams guided the Aeolus satellite to burn up over uninhabited regions in the Atlantic and Antarctica, even though the satellite was designed in the late 1990s with no intention to control it in this way.
📹 ESA – European Space Agency
Melting a piece of a satellite
ESA reentry expertise
Space debris – a journey to Earth
Space debris – a journey to Earth (3D stereoscopic)
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