How Often Does a Satellite Crash on Earth?


With the recent uproar surrounding Tiangong-1 and when is it going to fall on Earth, it is a good time to talk about how space debris enters Earth’s atmosphere and how often that happens. For those are not yet up to date with what happened to Tiaongong-1, we would like to tell you that you can rest easy knowing that it has safely landed in the Pacific Ocean. However, with this recent event having taken place, it is about time to talk about how often does space debris enter Earth’s atmosphere and what are the effects.

More about space debris

For starters, space debris is usually made up of spent rockets, spacecrafts that go out of control, discarded items and satellites that no longer work. More often than not the debris gets slowed down when it enter Earth’s upper atmosphere. Slowly but surely, it will then be pulled by gravitation into Earth’s lower atmosphere.

These objects are always tracked by a US military radar, an information that is shared in order to make sure that their calculations are not wrong and that that objects will not end up in a wrong place due to an error. Their predictions will never be 100 percent sure since there are always time variations. One cannot say that a piece of debris is going to land in one location at one hour and be surprised that it land a couple of hours later or even earlier.

In order to answer our initial question, on a yearly basis there are about 100 tons of space debris that enter our atmosphere. Most of them are very small and they tend to just burn up on their way down. Those that are a bit bigger tend to land in the ocean so, with a long history of no casualties coming from space debris, we can tell you that you should not worry about dying from getting hit by one. Our advice is that you do not touch a piece of debris if you encounter one since it may be coated in toxic chemicals.


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