Space Ecosystem in Peril as Thousands of Satellites Orbit Earth, Scientists Say

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A collective of 11 astrophysicists and space scientists, citing thousands of satellites orbiting the earth and new ones being launched at a “dizzying pace,” warned it’s time to think of space as part of an interconnected system of living things. 

Artificial satellites, thousands of which now clutter low Earth orbit, have essentially become an invasive species.

By Thomas Lewton

Outer space isn’t what most people would think of as an ecosystem. Its barren and frigid void isn’t exactly akin to the verdant canopies of a rainforest or to the iridescent shoals that swim among coral cities.

But if we are to become better stewards of the increasingly frenzied band of orbital space above our atmosphere, a shift to thinking of it as an ecosystem — as part of an interconnected system of living things interacting with their physical environment — may be just what we need.

Last month, in the journal Nature Astronomy, a collective of 11 astrophysicists and space scientists proposed we do just that, citing the proliferation of anthropogenic space objects.

Thousands of satellites currently orbit the Earth, with commercial internet providers such as SpaceX’s Starlink launching new ones at a dizzying pace.

Based on proposals for projects in the future, the authors note, the number could reach more than a hundred thousand within the decade.

Artificial satellites, long a vital part of the space ecosystem, have arguably become an invasive species.

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