If there are many satellites orbiting earth, how do space launches not bump into any of them?


If there are many satellites orbiting earth, how do space launches not bump into any of them?

In: 2066

First of all, they are all carefully tracked.

Secondly, you are underestimating the size of Earth and space. There are about 7700 satellites orbiting Earth. ALL of Earth. For comparison, there are about 1.5 billion cars on Earth, and there’s easily room for all of them.

Space is huge. In any given orbital altitude around our planet there is more area then the surface of the Earth. And there are hundreds of kilometers of altitude which can contain low orbit satellites. So even though there are a few thousand satellites orbiting the Earth they are very far apart, usually thousands of kilometers apart. The chance of hitting a satellite is therefore extremely small.

In addition to this we built a number of radar trackers during the cold war. And although intended for a different purpose they are excellent at tracking satellites orbiting the planet. So there are public databases of orbiting satellites, both active and dead. You can look up in these databases, calculate the orbital tracks of each of them to find out how close you may come to each of them. As far as I understand this have never resulted in someone changing the launch time.

The bigger danger is the smaller satellites which we can not track because they are too small. There are an unknown number of tiny objects in orbit around the Earth such as paint chips, metal flakes, bolts, weights, wires, etc. A lot of launchers were designed to lose parts in this way and could result in a hundred smaller objects entering orbit. The objects are small and light but when coming inn at a kilometer a second they can still cause quite a bit of damage. A lot of space hardware is therefore designed to withstand some hits. Either by including various types of armour such as kevlar or Whipple shields, or by making the systems redundant enough that a hit will not disable the craft.

Space is huge and there are a lot of different orbits at different altitudes you can place a satellite. You could spend your life living on a satellite and never see another satellite. Or if you did it would just look like a distant star that moves.

There are many ships at sea, how do you manage to launch more ships without bumping into them?

And oceans cover only 70% of earth surface and its 2D surface. In orbit there is also separation in height, by hundreds to thousands of kilometers.

1. There’s a lot of space out there.
2. All satellites are carefully tracked and the orbits of future satellites are planned accordingly.

For now it’s not an issue but it can possibly be an issue in the future. Time will tell. If we’re smart about it it will never be a problem.