According to NASA, Earth’s orbit is becoming a very crowded place, packed with an estimated 500,000 pieces of debris. These range from tiny fragments up to nosecone shrouds, hatch covers and rocket bodies.
Despite this, very few accidents have been called by all that debris. Back in 1996, a French satellite was damaged by fragments from rocket launched ten years earlier. In 2008, a dead Russian satellite collided with a U.S. Iridium satellite, destroying it and adding even more debris to the crowded orbital junkyard.
Just yesterday, Russia sent the Olympic torch into space ahead of the Winter Games in Sochi. This brings the number of spacecraft deployed by Russia/USSR to 4,024. By contrast the United States has deployed 1,950 spacecraft historically.
This chart gives an overview of space debris and satellites in orbit in 2013.
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