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Space Debris

Space Debris

What is space debris?

Space Debris is what we call man-made objects in space that do not have purpose or mission. Examples include:

  • Broken satellites.
  • Rocket bodies.
  • Dropped tools.
  • Debris from collisions or explosions.
  • Litter from manned space missions.
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Simulated instantaneous sky view

Total of 200 000 objects. Only objects > 15 cm shown in figure.

Why does it matter?

Space Debris in Earth Orbit travels at several km/s (hypervelocity). Even a tiny object has huge kinetic energy. It can damage or destroy satellites and poses danger to astronauts. It is in practice impossible to shield against space debris, and every impact generates more debris. If unchecked, space activity will become impossible. Except for low orbits, debris will remain in space for centuries or millenia!

Why do we care?

Satellites are crucial in modern society. We use them for navigation and timing (GNSS), communication, environmental monitoring, weather forecasting and disaster monitoring (geohazards,storms, floods, avalanches). Satellites are also used for mapping and land use, ass well as exploring the universe (e.g. Hubble Space Telescope, James Webb Space Telescope). <linke inn andre prosjekter/områder fra resten av jobs>

What is being done?


  • Maintaining a catalogue of space debris objects


  • Require low failure rates for new missions
  • De-orbiting part of mission planning
  • Collision avoidance manoeuvres


  • Experiments to capture debris

Contact persons

Tom Grydeland

Senior Researcher - Tromsø

+47 452 21 330

Robert Ricker

Senior Scientist - Tromsø
+47 56 10 78 40

Related research group:

Earth Observation
Earth Observation