An article by astronomers at the University of Washington appeared in the journal Nature Astronomy on the risk of pollution in low Earth orbit, a region that is located 160-2000 kilometers above the Earth. Space debris, rocket launches and objects that cause light pollution pose the greatest danger to it . The latter include constellations of satellites, including SpaceX Starlink, clusters of tens of thousands of satellites that are overloading space and “threatening this precious ecosystem.”
The authors believe that orbital space must be recognized as part of the environment and protected at all levels, including international levels. Scientists are concerned about SpaceX's intention to launch a total of 12,000 satellites and Amazon's attempts to launch thousands of its satellites before 2025. At the same time, SpaceX Starlink satellites are already the cause of more than half of the dangerous encounters, although only 1500 of them have been launched into orbit. SpaceX operators are forced to constantly make adjustments to the trajectory of movement in order to avoid collisions with other spacecraft and space debris. According to Space.com, Starlink satellites make about 1,600 close encounters every week, in some cases passing within 1,000 meters of each other.
We are at a tipping point in space exploration: launching is getting cheaper and that is leading to more and more satellites. There may be a price to pay: orbital pollution isn’t just a problem for astronomers, it could be dangerous for the space industry itself if objects start to collide and produce even more debris.
The European Space Agency estimates that there are currently 5,000 satellites in space, of which only 1,950 are active. As for debris, there can be 34,000 objects larger than 10 cm, 900,000 from 1 to 10 cm in size, from 1 mm to 1 cm - 128 million.