Kessler Syndrome: What Happens When Satellites Collide

Projected number of satellites & debris in Low Earth Orbit over the next fifty years. Source: Space Safety Magazine.
Examples of micrometeoroid impacts on spacecraft. The bottom left is believed to have been caused by a fleck of paint.
A hypervelocity projectile impacting a whipple shield, disintegrating and dissipating its kinetic energy before impacting the critical surface on the right.
Left: hypervelocity impact into solid aluminum without shielding (~5km/s). Right: hypervelocity impact with whipple shielding.
ENVISAT, operated by the European Space Station, went dark in 2012. It’s now one of the largest pieces of intact debris, and will remain in orbit for 200 years if not removed.

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