Environment Report

The latest Space Debris Environment Report issued by ESA's Space Debris Office is available here.

Environment Statistics

Here we would like to briefly address and summarise some facts on the space environment. This environment is understood to contain all man made objects, including fragments and elements thereof, which currently, or previously did, reside in an Earth bound orbit. Of specific interest is space debris, defined as all man made objects including fragments and elements thereof, in Earth orbit or reentering the atmosphere, that are non functional (IADC definition). Objects in the space environment can be categorised in two broad categories: The ones which can be traced back to a launch event and for which the nature can be identified, and the ones for which this is not (yet) possible. The later ones will be identified as Unidentified (UI), whereas the former can be further categorised in:

The taxonomy of objects in the space environment can be done based on type as before, but also via the orbital regime in which they reside. A catalogued object will refer to an object whose orbital elements are maintained for prolonged periods of time in a catalogue created by a space surveillance system. An asserted object will refer to an object which has not been reported by a space surveillance system but is known to exist in the space environment by design. Asserted objects include for example rocket bodies which perform a re-entry burn after inserting a payload into orbit prior to consistent detection or tracking by a space surveillance system. As such catalogued and asserted objects are not mutually exclusive and neither one is strictly contained within the other. Catalogued and asserted objects can be categorised in terms of their orbital elements for a given epoch. Orbital regimes used hereafter will be identified based on semi-major axis, eccentricity, inclination, perigee height and apogee height in the table below.

Orbital regime definitions
Orbital regime Description Limits
GEO Geostationary Orbit i < 25°, 35586 km < hp < 35986 km, 35586 km < ha < 35986 km
IGO Inclined Geosynchronous Orbit 37948 km < a < 46380 km, e < 0.25, 25° < i < 180°
EGO Extended Geostationary Orbit 37948 km < a < 46380 km, e < 0.25, i < 25°
NSO Navigation Satellites Orbit 50° < i < 70°, 18100 km < hp < 24300 km, 18100 km < ha < 24300 km
GTO GEO Transfer Orbit i < 90°, hp < 2000 km, 31570 km < ha < 40002 km
MEO Medium Earth Orbit 2000 km < hp < 31570 km, 2000 km < ha < 31570 km
GHO GEO-superGEO Crossing Orbits 31570 km < hp < 40002 km, ha > 40002 km
LEO Low Earth Orbit hp < 2000 km, ha < 2000 km
HAO High Altitude Earth Orbit hp > 40002 km, ha > 40002 km
MGO MEO-GEO Crossing Orbits 2000 km < hp < 31570 km, 31570 km < ha < 40002 km
HEO Highly Eccentric Earth Orbit hp < 31570 km, ha > 40002 km
LMO LEO-MEO Crossing Orbits hp < 2000 km, 2000 km < ha < 31570 km
UFO Undefined Orbit
ESO Escape Orbits

Fragmentation events are currently being categorised according to the assessed break-up cause:

Data presented hereafter will only relate to catalogued objects, and hence next to the increase of the space object population by human activity show the increase in availability of space surveillance networks. The abbreviation OCC (Orbit Control Capacity) will be used to identify Payload objects which can alter their orbit by means of applying demonstrated impulsive or continuous thrust. This thus include all conventional types of space propulsion but not technologies exploiting natural perturbations such as drag or solar sails. Rocket bodies, also described as Stages are all assumed to have OCC. Human spaceflight (HS) related missions are analysed separately, as they tend to skew results in terms of mass and count affected for the space environment and have generally a very high reliability. These mission include manned payloads as well as cargo payloads, but not the rocket bodies which bring them into orbit. An in-depth report will be available here soon.

Objects in Orbit

Objects in orbit count over time subdivided in orbit classes

Mass in orbit over time subdivided in orbit classes

Objects in orbit count over time subdivided in object classes

Mass in orbit over time subdivided in object classes

Reentered objects over time subdivided in object classes

Current number of orbiting objects per type and orbital regime
Orbital Regime PL PF PD PM RB RF RD RM UI Total
LEO 2958 6200 90 143 861 2426 133 630 137 13578
GEO 742 3 1 3 62 0 0 0 72 883
EGO 427 0 0 42 171 90 1 0 1439 2170
GTO 55 5 0 10 235 196 6 54 466 1027
NSO 259 0 0 1 83 0 0 2 6 351
MEO 57 5 4 52 18 4 1 3 102 246
LMO 86 119 8 69 227 527 14 223 707 1980
MGO 69 72 0 2 171 459 4 3 926 1706
HEO 27 13 0 1 42 60 0 1 586 730
Other 27 0 0 2 1 0 0 0 55 85
Total 4707 6417 103 325 1871 3762 159 916 4496 22756
Current mass (kg) in orbit per object type and orbital regime
Orbital Regime PL PF PD PM RB RF RD RM UI Total
LEO 1398.6 1.5 1.0 2.6 1271.5 0.2 0.0 5.3 0.0 2680.8
GEO 2294.5 0.0 0.0 0.7 128.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 2423.3
EGO 638.6 0.0 0.0 4.6 327.6 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 970.8
GTO 97.3 0.0 0.0 0.0 546.1 0.0 0.0 30.5 0.0 673.9
NSO 324.0 0.0 0.0 0.4 188.1 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 512.5
MEO 57.9 0.0 0.0 0.2 21.4 0.0 0.0 2.0 0.0 81.6
LMO 76.8 0.0 0.0 2.2 380.8 0.0 0.0 82.2 0.0 542.1
MGO 104.3 0.0 0.0 1.9 277.8 0.0 0.0 3.0 0.0 387.0
HEO 35.7 0.0 0.0 0.1 93.0 0.0 0.0 0.4 0.0 129.2
Other 45.9 0.0 0.0 0.1 0.4 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 46.4
Total 5073.6 1.5 1.0 12.8 3234.8 0.2 0.0 123.5 0.0 8447.5
Current cumulative cross sectional area (m²) in orbit per object type and orbital regime
Orbital Regime PL PF PD PM RB RF RD RM UI Total
LEO 12437.1 15.9 4.5 24.8 10237.2 0.0 0.0 243.3 0.0 22962.8
GEO 22360.5 0.0 0.0 3.4 1359.4 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 23723.3
EGO 9028.6 0.0 0.0 35.4 3427.3 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 12491.3
GTO 686.6 0.0 0.0 0.7 5387.7 0.0 0.0 878.1 0.0 6953.0
NSO 2112.2 0.0 0.0 0.4 1763.1 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 3875.6
MEO 529.9 0.0 0.0 5.5 207.6 0.0 0.0 15.2 0.0 758.2
LMO 600.4 0.0 0.0 12.0 4415.5 0.0 0.0 1531.7 0.0 6559.5
MGO 321.9 0.0 0.0 14.5 2343.3 0.0 0.0 24.7 0.0 2704.3
HEO 417.6 0.0 0.0 0.1 959.8 0.0 0.0 27.4 0.0 1404.9
Other 386.3 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.9 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 387.1
Total 48880.9 15.9 4.5 96.8 30101.7 0.0 0.0 2720.3 0.0 81820.2

Fragmentations in Orbit

Number of fragmentation events over time subdivided by fragmentation cause

Share of fragmentation causes over time

Missions to LEO and GEO

Launch traffic to LEO over time

Launch traffic to GEO over time