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Earth's atmosphere is shrinking: Carbon dioxide emissions generate more space waste

Earth’s atmosphere is shrinking: Carbon dioxide emissions generate more space waste

The main cause of climate change could also mean more space debris accumulating in orbit than previously expected. This was determined by three researchers and one researcher from the University of Southampton, confirming previous analyzes. Since 2000 alone, the density of the foothills of the atmosphere at an altitude of 400 km has decreased by 17 percent, and in the worst cases this proportion can increase to 30 percent. Because satellites decelerate less strongly at this altitude, their lifespan increases, and with it the amount of space debris that collects there.

It has long been known that greenhouse gas emissions, responsible for humans, have enormous impacts on the formation of the atmosphere. In Southampton, I have been researching for years the changes in the so-called thermosphere at altitudes of 100 to 600 km. There is a CO2Emission to cool and shrink the atmosphere. Other current research has shown that the stratosphere below is constantly shrinking due to greenhouse gases. While the consequences of changing the stratosphere have yet to be examined in detail, Matthew Brown and his team have already gathered accurate data in their thermosphere analysis. the work In the commercial journal JGR: Atmospheres Published.

According to the study, in Low Earth Orbit (LEO) at an altitude of 400 km, the density of the atmosphere has decreased by 1.7 to 5 percent per decade since 1967. This has significantly reduced the braking effect of the atmosphere on satellites at this altitude – the most notable example. On it is the International Space Station ISS. Even if the Paris climate agreement goal of maximum global warming of 1.5 degrees Celsius is achieved, the density of the atmosphere in this LEO will be reduced by 30 percent compared to 2000. This means that satellites, and especially mega-constellations are planned such as Starlink from SpaceX, will last longer with this value. This may not have been taken into account in planning and is likely to increase the amount of space waste.

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Steerable satellites, missile remnants, and other space debris are no longer a growing problem, and targeted disposal measures should first be tested. Planned massive towers like Starlink with tens of thousands of satellites, which are supposed to connect remote regions of the world to the Internet, rely on the braking effect of the atmosphere in order to shatter abandoned satellites. Just a few days ago, SpaceX was allowed to deploy thousands of satellites far less. However, the research has not been incorporated into the assumptions made about age. The assumption of an extended life of 30 percent assumes a perfect fight against climate change, in the worst-case scenario of carbon dioxide2Emissions nearly triple the life of the Starlink satellites.

The article contains an interactive drawing created and presented by Berlin-based service provider Datawrapper. To protect data in the Datawrapper, see Data protection. Personal or personal data is not collected from the readers of interactive charts.


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