China Top of Orbital Garbage Heap, Study Shows

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Who’s the biggest space polluter on the planet? Why that

would be China, a relative newcomer to the space age, which now tops the list

of countries contributing to space debris, according to a study by the Russian

space agency, Roscosmos.

China accounts for 40 percent of the space debris, followed

by the United States, which produces 27.5 percent and Russia, with 25.5

percent, the study showed.

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Honors for catapulting China to the top of the orbital

garbage heap fall to the Chinese military, which deliberately destroyed a

defunct weather satellite in 2007 to test a missile. The explosion created more

than 2,800 pieces of free-flying shrapnel.

In all, there’s more than 10,000 dead spacecraft, rocket

bodies and other relics of the space age circling Earth, all of which present a

formidable challenge for governments, researchers and companies wishing to

operate satellites for remote sensing, science, communications and other

services.

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The Russian news agency RIA Novosti reports that Russian

scientists have proposed the creation of an international airspace system for

monitoring the near-Earth space environment, an idea that already has support

internationally.

The dangers of space debris hit home last year when a

decommissioned Russian military satellite crashed into and destroyed one of

Iridium’s mobile communications spacecraft in what is believed to be the first

in-space collision.

Image credit: NASA

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