Low-Earth orbit is full of junk, and Russia’s antisatellite test Monday made things even worse. According to the U.S. Space Command, it created hundreds of thousands of debris pieces. Moscow’s actions threaten the use of space for all humanity. And Russia isn’t the only country pursuing antisatellite weapons. The U.S. conducted such a test in 1985, China in 2007 and India in 2019.
Orbital debris has been a problem since the dawn of the Space Age. The first piece was the rocket body from Sputnik I in 1957. There are at least half a million pieces the size of a marble, and many millions more too small to track. Because objects in orbit travel at 17,500 miles an hour, even tiny fragments can destroy space assets upon impact.