It’s getting crowded in Earth’s orbital space.
More than half a million man-made objects — ranging from as small as a speck to as large as a school bus — are orbiting the planet at a variety of speeds and paths. Many of those devices are no longer active — space junk, if you will — and only about 26,000 satellites are being tracked.
Still, various governments and private companies have plans to send 20,000 more objects into orbit within the next five years.
Satellites serve a variety of key uses, from national security to keeping the Internet online. But for the most part space traffic — and the resulting debris — is being tracked imperfectly, inconsistently or not at all.
“There are no sort of laws or rules right now in the space. It’s the Wild West. Whoever can put stuff up, it’s yours,” said Naeem Altaf, an Austin-based