The Kessler Syndrome 2019/Q4

This is page 1 (2019)
Updates for 2020 are here 2020/Q1 2020/Q2

This is a casual collection of articles and reports of interest found on the internet. New items appear at the bottom of the page as and when I find them.

This is not meant to be a balanced nor an objective report (because I think it’s utter madness!) Please research your own articles if you’re looking for balanced arguments regarding the need for huge mega-satellite constellations, then research the consequences of giving carte-blanche permission to the likes of SpaceX, Amazon and OneWeb to allow them to literally fill the sky with tens of thousands of satellites which will severely interfere with visual and radio observations of the universe in both day-time and night-time, also hastening the day that the Kessler Syndrome will happen (because it will!)

What is the Kessler Syndrome?

The Kessler syndrome (also called the Kessler effect,[1][2]collisional cascading, or ablation cascade), proposed by the NASA scientist Donald J. Kessler in 1978, is a scenario in which the density of objects in low Earth orbit (LEO) is high enough that collisions between objects could cause a cascade in which each collision generates space debris that increases the likelihood of further collisions.[3] One implication is that the distribution of debris in orbit could render space activities and the use of satellites in specific orbital ranges difficult for many generations.[3] More: Wikipedia

Below is a collection of archived articles which describe the problem and propose various solutions. The problem faced now (in 2019) is that the satellite population is set to grow significantly within the next few years, along with the risk that objects (active and failed satellites, disused rocket bodies and debris) will have collisions increasingly exponentially.

Archived report from 1990:

Orbiting Debris: A Space Environmental Problem
October 1990 OTA-BP-ISC-72 NTIS order #PB91-114272

  • From the Foreword:

Man-made debris, now circulating in a multitude of orbits about Earth as the result of the exploration and use of the space environment, poses a growing hazard to future space operations. The 6,000 or so debris objects large enough to be cataloged by the U.S. Space Surveillance Network are only a small percentage of the total debris capable of damaging spacecraft. Unless nations reduce the amount of orbital debris they produce, future space activities could suffer loss of capability, destruction of spacecraft, and perhaps even loss of life as a result of collisions between spacecraft and debris.

Starlink “train” of the first 60 satellites seen over the Netherlands just after launch
(Dr Marco Langbroek 2019-05-24)
Example of StarLink Internet Connectivity between New York and London
Starlink Satellite Internet Animation by Dr. Mark Handley

FCC Approves SpaceX Starlink Satellite Plan [link]

Companies Unite to Reject SpaceX Satellite Plans [link]

Uncorrected long duration exposure of Andromeda (Nasa)
Starlink visibility simulation with 12k satellites (42k are now proposed as of Oct 2019!)
Note that the animation is considerably faster than real-time.

Web page links:
Live tracking of the Starlink satellites (page appears broken and not updated as of Dec 2019)

Wikipedia page following the Starlink launch campaign

SpaceX is launching Starlink satellites in batches of 60 satellites approximately once per month.

Discussion by Marcus House (Youtube)
Starlink train seen from Japan Nov 2019 soon after launch
Comparing density of 12k satellites with 42k satellites (Steven Richardson/Marcus House)
Starlink “photobomb” starts at around 2m12s
Denis Vida, University of Western Ontario (Youtube)

.@SpaceXStarlink seem to think that astronomy is just “little kids looking through their telescopes”, seemingly forgetting the vital work done by the amateur and professional communities who are probing, amongst other things, the origins of the universe.

SpaceX working on fix for Starlink satellites so they don’t disrupt astronomy

“The Promise and Challenges of Starlink”. A Space Review article with numerous ‘coulds’ and ‘mays’ suggesting that astronomers should embrace Starlink with its supposed benefits to astronomy. Personally I don’t buy it…

Credit: Scopes4SEN @PatrickPoitevin (Twitter 30/12/2019)
Rather cloudy and foggy, though captured tens of StarLink satellites with iPhone. All in or near each their track. Quite a spectacular visual view.

Inforsurhoy 29/12/2019:

1) Astronomers slam high-speed global internet plans as new satellites will ‘get in the way’ science 

Astronomers have dubbed plans for a high-speed global internet a ‘tragedy’ as the thousands of new satellites required will get in the way of key scientific observations.

‘…in 20 years or less, for a good part the night anywhere in the world, the human eye would see more satellites than stars.’

Link to original article:

Historic articles

Starlink – Snapshot 02/01/2020 (courtesy Stuff in Space)

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