Pieces of broken satellites, which travel at huge speeds could threaten the space environment, a new paper has found.
The research led by the University of Edinburgh and published in Nature Astronomy suggests space debris has increased in recent years because of the rapid growth of so-called satellite mega-constellations.
These gigantic installations of huge clusters of hardware are endangering and polluting the space ecosystem, the study suggests.
Researchers argue that space is an important environment for all professional astronomers, amateur stargazers and indigenous peoples.
The authors of the report urge policymakers to consider the environmental impacts of all aspects of satellite constellations, including their launch, operation and de-orbit.
“We are standing on a watershed in history. We can cheaply launch huge numbers of satellites and use them to the benefit of life on Earth – but this comes at a cost,” said Professor Andy Lawrence, Regius Professor of Astronomy, University of Edinburgh Institute for Astronomy and Lead Author of the study.
He added: “As well as damaging stargazing, the space industry may be shooting itself in the foot.”