'Catastrophic' space debris collisions expected to rise
London: Some satellite orbits will become extremely hazardous over the next 200 years if space debris is not actively tackled, a new study has warned.
The research found that catastrophic space debris collisions would likely occur every five to nine years at the altitudes used principally to observe the Earth.
And the scientists who conducted the study for the Inter-Agency Space Debris Coordination Committee said that the real outcome would probably be far worse, the BBC reported.
The space agencies of Europe, the US, Italy, the UK, Japan and India all contributed to the latest research, each one using their own experts and methodology to model the future space environment.
Scientists were most concerned with low-Earth orbit (that is, below 2,000km in altitude). This is where the majority of missions returning critical Earth-observation data tend to operate.
All six modelling groups came out with broadly the same finding - a steady increase in the numbers of objects 10cm and bigger over the 200-year period.
This growth was driven mostly by collisions between objects at altitudes between 700km and 1,000km.
"We're certainly not at 90 percent compliance with the 25-year rule yet, and we see explosion events on average about three times a year," explained Dr Hugh Lewis, who detailed the research findings at the 6th European Conference on Space Debris in Darmstadt, Germany, on Monday.
The UK Space Agency delegate to the IADC told BBC News that the situation would be worse than what they presented in the study.
One of the options obviously is active debris removal, concluded Dr Lewis.