FAA: Space Junk Puts Earthlings At Risk

As the cosmos becomes increasingly cluttered with satellites and debris, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has issued a stark warning — falling satellites could pose a serious threat to unsuspecting Earth dwellers. A recent report from the FAA forecasts that by 2035, the danger is such that one person could be killed every two years by satellites tumbling from the heavens.

The increase in launches from Florida’s Space Coast has left the skies more congested than ever. “There are millions if not billions or trillions of objects which are untracked,” warns Dr. Madhur Tiwari, an assistant professor of aerospace engineering at Florida Tech.

Tiwari and his team have secured a grant to explore a space clutter solution that relies on artificial intelligence. Their plan involves 3D modeling of debris fields, using machine learning and vision technology, all done on the spacecraft without human intervention.

With a marked increase in non-geostationary satellites, particularly those in low Earth orbit (LEO), the FAA fears that reentering debris could pose a serious risk to people on Earth and to aviation. The agency estimates that by 2035, around 28,000 pieces of satellite debris could survive reentry.

Mark Marquette, a local astronomer and community liaison with the American Space Museum in Titusville, Florida, concurs that the skies are growing congested. “We’ve got hundreds of third stages orbiting the Earth full of fuel that wasn’t expended. This could be a hazard when they come down,” he says.

SpaceX, however, is challenging the FAA’s conclusions. David Goldstein, a principal engineer at SpaceX, calls the FAA report “deeply flawed,” claiming it relies on assumptions and outdated studies.

“To be clear, SpaceX’s satellites are designed and built to fully demise during atmospheric reentry during disposal at end of life, and they do so,” Goldstein said. He adds that SpaceX has a post-mission disposal success rate of over 99%, compared to the space industry’s average of 90%.

The conflict between SpaceX and the FAA underscores the urgency of addressing the risks posed by the ever-growing cloud of space junk. As the heavens grow more crowded with satellites and debris, the need for comprehensive monitoring and tracking systems has never been more critical. Thanks to AI-powered solutions like the one being developed by Tiwari and his team, we may be one step closer to safeguarding our skies and ensuring the safety of Earth’s inhabitants.

Reactions to the FAA report and SpaceX’s response have been mixed on social media. Some users expressed concern over the growing threat of space debris, while others questioned the validity of the FAA’s claims. Regardless of where one stands on the issue, one thing is sure: the problem of space junk is not going away anytime soon, and it will require the collective effort of governments, industry leaders, and scientists to find a solution.