Slash the Trash: Down with Dead Satellites

Space debris entering the atmosphere
Published Date


Since the Space Age began more than 60 years ago, almost 9,000 satellites have been placed in orbit, with about 5,150 still there and about 2,207 of those still operational as of October 2019. Space debris, along with the new vehicles themselves, will affect the overall sustainability of the space environment. While it is unlikely that all the planned satellites will be launched, we are on the cusp of a fundamental change in the space environment. Five distinct concepts to incentivize compliance with the “25‑year rule” and a framework for analyzing the merits of each concept are presented here. The main objective is to sustain the space environment for current and future users, commercial and government, by lessening the chance of debilitating collisions, especially in the useful, already crowded LEO.