A report from the Federal Aviation Authority (FAA) warns that falling satellites could pose a significant risk to people and aircraft by 2035.
The report, which was commissioned amid increasing concern about space debris, found that the probability of someone being injured or killed by a falling satellite could be as high as 0.6 per year by 2035. This would mean that someone could be injured or killed by a falling satellite every two years.
The report also found that there is a small but non-zero risk of an aircraft being downed by a falling satellite. The FAA estimated that the probability of an aircraft being downed by a satellite could be as high as 0.0007 per year by 2035.
The FAA’s report is particularly concerned about the risk posed by SpaceX’s Starlink satellite constellation. SpaceX has already launched over 5,000 Starlink satellites, and the company plans to launch tens of thousands more in the coming years. The FAA estimates that SpaceX’s Starlink satellites account for over 85% of the risk posed by falling satellites to people on the ground.
SpaceX has criticized the FAA’s report, arguing that it is based on flawed assumptions. The company says that its satellites are more likely to burn up on entry into the Earth’s atmosphere than the FAA assumes. However, the FAA has defended its report, saying that it is based on the best available data.
The sources for this piece include an article in Independent.