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The final frontier


Forbes highlights the risk of satellite collision. 'Imagine an object the size of a pea with the potential to destroy a satellite, and you'll get a sense of the potential new risks posed by the collision of an Iridium satellite with an inactive Russian military satellite. The scale of the damage is still being assessed, but so far the U.S. Joint Space Operations Center has identified 600 pieces of debris greater than the size of a tennis ball that were thrown off in the crash (pieces smaller than that are untrackable). Traveling at around 5.0 miles a second, an object much smaller could do a lot of damage, particularly when colliding with one coming from the opposite direction at a similar speed.'

The first artificial satellite, Sputnik 1, was launched by the Soviet Union in 1957. By 2009 thousands of satellites had been launched into orbit around the Earth, originating from more than 50 countries. A few hundred satellites are currently operational but thousands of unused satellites and satellite fragments orbit the Earth as space debris.

Some companies specialise in risks in space from lift-off to re-entry and beyond.

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