1,738 intentional breakups, collisions on orbit, and operational debris.

1,738 is the number of active satellites orbiting in Low Earth Orbit (LEO). The cost of production of each satellite may vary from $200 million to $500 million dollars. The total investment on satellites placed in LEO, Medium Earth Orbit (MEO), geosynchronous orbit (GEO) is billions of dollars. The recent investment of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) was $11 billion which includes a set of four weather satellites through 2035. The space industry is a multi-billion dollar venture that is being threatened by approximately 500,000 pieces of space debris travelling at incredible speeds of 7.7 km /sec. On the other hand, there is an increasing concern in the international community in which the normal space operations of those satellites might be in danger and jeopardized by hundreds of thousands of pieces of space debris.The race to conquer space between the two superpowers in the 1960’s have unleashed an uncontrollable vast number of debris orbiting earth orbit. Furthermore, Sputnik which was launched in 1957, almost 61 years ago, is still orbiting Earth as an inactive satellite. The current debris population poses a certain collision probability and a resulting risk of damage to orbiting objects. The definition of space debris according to the National Air and Space Administration (NASA) is “any man-made object in orbit about the Earth which no longer serves a useful function. Such debris includes nonfunctional spacecraft, abandoned launch vehicle stages, mission-related debris and fragmentation debris 2.”It is important to consider, Earth orbit whether it is LEO, MEO or GEO, is a limited resource. The number of launches is increasing year by year and the number of failures is increasing as well as is reflected in the following graph:The increase of launches and failures per year is the perfect recipe to generate accidental explosions, intentional breakups, collisions on orbit, and operational debris. According to Kessler, every satellite, space probe, and manned mission has the potential to produce space debris. A cascading Kessler syndrome becomes more likely as satellites in orbit increase in number 1. Consequently, the future sustainability of space activities is in imminent danger. The question is not if the Kessler syndrome is going to happen. The question is when is this going to happen. Furthermore, it is only a matter of time until the space debris mitigation guidelines of the Committee of the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space (COPUOS) become legally binding among the international community. Therefore, it is crucial during the design phase to any satellite developer to include the add on ” Elektra” on its payloads to guarantee compliance with the United Nations (UN) space debris mitigation guidelines.  

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