Space Junk: The Asia Factor
China’s 2007 test of an anti-satellite missile added nearly 3,000 fragments to the number of deadly or destructive items orbiting earth.
October 7, 2015
1. China is the world’s third-biggest contributor to space debris, behind former Soviet countries and the United States. This debris, including spent rockets, retired satellites and fragments from old missions can damage or destroy satellites and the international space station.
2. A total of 3,706 debris items (or 22% of the global total) attributable to China had been cataloged as of July 1, 2015, according to the United States Space Surveillance Network.
3. In April 1970, China was the fifth country independently to put its own satellite into orbit.
4. China worsened the debris situation through its 2007 test of an anti-satellite missile.
5. This missile launch destroyed its test target, a Chinese weather satellite in orbit. This single action added nearly 3,000 confirmed fragments to the number of potentially deadly or destructive items orbiting earth.
6. While it was the worst incident, China is not the only country to destroy satellites in tests.
7. Following third-ranking China and fourth-ranking France are Japan and India, the fifth and sixth largest contributors of “space junk,” respectively.
8. However, in terms of the actual number of debris items, they are much farther behind, with just 209 and 165 items (1.2% and 1% of all debris, respectively).
9. Japan launched its first satellite independently in February 1970, just ahead of China. India, after collaborating with the Soviet space program for some years, made its first independent launch in 1980.
10. All three Asian nations are now significant players in manned and unmanned space exploration activities, often in partnership with other countries.
Sources: The Globalist Research Center, United States Space Surveillance Network, NASA, Secure World Foundation