... How Many Satellites Are Orbiting The Earth, And How Is It Possible That They Do Not Collide? | Dance of Stoves

How Many Satellites Are Orbiting The Earth, And How Is It Possible That They Do Not Collide?

Satellite orbits the Earth
Do you know how many satellites revolve around the Earth?
Sixty-four satellites in a single mission.

That is what South African billionaire Ellon Musk's aerospace company SpaceX plans to launch into space this Monday, after several rescheduling.

This is a historic launch, as the Falcon 9 rocket will carry the most significant number of satellites in a single mission taking off from US soil.

The 64 satellites that share launch come from 34 different organisations from up to 17 other countries.

The devices come in different sizes and will serve various functions, from improving internet communications to hunting down pirates at sea.

But have you ever wondered how many satellites are in space? 

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Can anyone send them? 

And can they collide with each other?

How many satellites are there?

The SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket is ready to launch the Es'hail-2 communications satellite for Qatar on November 15, 2018, at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida, USA.
SpaceX, the space company of billionaire Elon Musk, seeks to send 64 satellites into space in a single historic launch.
If you had to guess the number of artificial satellites orbiting the Earth, what number would you say? 

Hundreds, thousands?

According to the Index of Objects Thrown into Outer Space, prepared by the United Nations Office for Outer Space Affairs (UNOOSA), there are 4,921 satellites currently orbiting.

But not all are active.

"There are about 2,600 satellites that are no longer operational but still in orbit, and a total of approximately 17,000 'objects' in space," explains David Barnhart, director of the Space Engineering Research Center at the University of Southern California in Los Angeles. Angeles, United States.

The specialist refers to space debris that orbits the Earth and exceeds 7,600 tons, as reported in February this year by the US National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA, for its acronym in English)

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"All of them are in orbit around the Earth from 100km of altitude (low Earth orbit) to 35,000km (geostationary orbit)", explains Barnhart to BBC Mundo.

What is the size of a satellite?

Satellite over Earth.
Satellites can weigh from a few kilos to tons.
If you think of a satellite, perhaps the first image that comes to mind is a vast device made of a resistant material that weighs tons.

But not all are like that.

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"Its size varies from that of a bread basket (for example, tens of centimeters on each side and a few kilograms of weight) to that of a school bus (several meters on each side and thousands of kilos)", says Barnhart, who dedicates to design satellites.

What is the function of a satellite?

Not all satellites are dedicated to observing the Earth and taking images of it.

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"The orbit of satellites around the Earth performs a multitude of functions including communications (cell phone coverage and data transfer), Earth observation, navigation and positioning (this is the GPS system we all use), and the study of space and the planet by science ", describes the specialist.

Satellites are not only responsible for taking photos of the Earth.

How does a satellite stay in orbit?

Satellites can orbit the planet because they are programmed at speeds that are fast enough to overcome gravity.

A rocket transports the satellite into space and places the satellite in its orbit once the determined location is reached.

The speed reached by the satellite while separating from the rocket is enough to keep the device in orbit for hundreds of years, says the National Service of Environmental Satellites, Data and Information (Nesdis, for its acronym in English), which depends on the Service. 

National Oceans and Atmosphere of the United States.

A satellite is kept in orbit by its speed and the gravitational force that the Earth has on it. 

The one closer to the Earth requires more speed to resist the force of gravity, explains the Nesdis on its website.

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And the satellites carry their fuel supply that is only used in the event of a change in orbit or to avoid collisions.

So can satellites collide?

A person with the phone in hand and a GPS
Thanks to satellites, we have GPS.
"Yes, they can collide, but it does not happen frequently. 

Although it may seem that there are many satellites, the space is 'large', and they are generally placed in orbits that do not intersect or interfere with each other," says the University specialist Southern California.

"That is not to say that it does not and cannot happen, and with plans to install thousands more satellites, the probability of a possible collision will increase," he adds.

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In February 2009, two communications satellites, one American and one Russian collided in space. 

This is believed to be the first time two artificial satellites accidentally collided, the Nesdis centre describes.

Who controls the satellites?

Garbage that revolves around the Earth.
The more than 4,000 satellites are not the only thing that orbits the Earth.
Satellites can be owned by organisations, companies, governments, and individuals.

There are many regulations to control how often in orbit radio communications operate and which orbit they enter to avoid interference.

"According to the Outer Space Treaty (1967), each country has some type of regulatory control of satellite launches specifically to help avoid radio interference and prevent possible collisions in the launch," explains Barnhart to BBC Mundo.

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For example, in the United States, private companies must obtain a federal license to operate in space.

Suppose you want to carry out operations with a communications satellite. 

In that case, you must apply for a license from the Federal Communications Commission (FCC). 

If you're going to carry out a satellite launch, you need permission from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA).

And in global terms, the United Nations Office for Outer Space Affairs (UNOOSA) is in charge of implementing UN policies related to space, thus acting as a regulator of space law in the world.

Elon Musk.
Elon Musk is the founder and owner of SpaceX, a private company that launches into space.

Can anyone send a satellite into space?

"Yes, today it is possible that almost anyone can send satellites into space. 

Even high school students built and launched their satellites sharing programs with launch vehicles and various government agencies around the world," says Barnhart.

Commercial companies are launching satellites into space at a rate that has nearly tripled in the past ten years, with investments reaching billions of dollars.

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"It is a very exciting time in the space industry, with many innovations, not only in new satellites but in the development of an industry for 'service' satellites, which until now did not exist," says Barnhart.

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