'A hazard': FAA says falling satellites could injure, kill people in new report

Space is filling up with junk, and the FAA is worried – the debris could be deadly. 

In a new report, the FAA says by 2035, one person could be killed every two years by satellites falling from space. Launches are happening more often on the Space Coast, and experts say, increased tracking is crucial before someone gets hurt. 

"There are millions if not billions or trillions of objects which are untracked," said Dr. Madhur Tiwari who’s an assistant professor of aerospace engineering at Florida Tech. 

Thanks to a new grant, Tiwari and his team are looking into a space clutter solution using artificial intelligence.

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"3D modeling of these debris fields, using machine learning and just vision, and it’s going to happen on the spacecraft without any humans in the loop," he added. 

The FAA is also concerned about the increase in clutter because the agency says, "the dramatic rise of non-geostationary satellites, particularly those in low earth orbit (leo), poses an increased risk to people on earth and aviation due to reentering debris."  

Watch again: SpaceX Falcon 9 sends next batch of Starlink satellites into space 

By 2035, the FAA thinks about 28,000 pieces of satellites could survive re-entry, and this means one person on Earth could be injured or killed every two years.  

"The problem with space is not just the amount, but the problem is also how fast they are moving," Tiwari said. 

Another problem is satellites are left behind in space. 

"We’re getting a congestion problem up there as they get old de-orbit," said Mark Marquette who’s the community liaison with the American Space Museum in Titusville. 

Marquette is also a local astronomer. He sees the increase in orbiting satellites from his telescope and says more needs to be done to monitor what’s out there. 

"We’ve got hundreds of third stages orbiting the earth that are full of fuel that wasn’t expended," said Marquette. "This could be a hazard when they come down." 

FOX 35 News did reach out to SpaceX for comment on this new report. At the time this article was published, we have not heard back. The company has talked about trying to launch 100 missions this year and many of those are dedicated to Starlink satellites.