Science on the Hill:

Safeguarding the Sky

Safeguarding the Sky: The Science and Policy of Space Junk

The eighth annual Science on the Hill event will bring together policy leaders and scientists in a panel discussion on our planet’s increasingly crowded orbital environment. Skyrocketing numbers of orbital launches and atmospheric reentries are bringing rapid and perhaps profound changes to the environments of low-Earth orbit and our planet’s upper atmosphere. Thanks in large part to burgeoning plans for satellite “mega constellations,” the global launch industry is on track to loft as many as 50,000 new satellites into orbit by 2030. As low-Earth orbit becomes more crowded, the potential for major problems grows in the heavens and on Earth alike: besides the space-based hazards posed by probable increases in space junk, the proliferation of mega constellations could also interfere with delicate scientific studies of the cosmos and dramatically boost the amount of metallic pollution entering the stratosphere from the fiery reentry of spacecraft and debris.

Discussion at the event will address the following questions:

  • How has the orbital space debris landscape changed over the last decade, and what does the future look like?
  • How can we clarify the nature and extent of space junk’s effects on the stratosphere?
  • What risks do mega constellations pose to observational astronomy, and how might they be mitigated?
  • Do any programs, policies, or incentives exist to address these problems? How could a circular space economy help?

The event is hosted by Springer Nature Group, Scientific American, and Nature Portfolio (both part of Springer Nature).