Amazing visualisations show the massive cloud of junk in space created last week by Russia’s Anti-Satellite Weapon Test. This weapon deliberately destroyed a 40-year old intelligence satellite.  

Russia’s antisatellite (or ASAT) launched November 15. It purposefully destroyed Russia’s Cosmos 1408 satellite, weighing 4,410 pounds, which was originally launched in 1982. 

According to experts, the space debris from last week’s collision over the Atlantic Ocean – which included ‘some 1,500 pieces of trackable size’ – will cause havoc for spacecraft for years, if not decades.   

Astronauts at the International Space Station (ISS), 260 miles above Earth were instructed to evacuate for 2 hours after the impact to permit the debris to pass. 

Russia was criticized by one space company for putting the crew at risk on the ISS. They called it an ‘irresponsible action that harms all nations spacefaring’.  

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Russia blew up one of its own satellites on Monday, November 15, using a missile. Cosmos 1408, a defunct spy satellite launched in 1982, was the destroyed target, which resulted in a field of 1,500 pieces of debris endangering the crew of the ISS

Russia destroyed one of its satellites with a missile on Monday, Nov. 15. Cosmos 1408, a defunct satellite for spying, was hit and destroyed. This resulted in 1,500 pieces of debris that threatened the crew on the ISS.

The debris field created by the Russian anti-satellite test against Cosmos 1408 in LEO (low Earth orbit) causing alarm to the ISS crew, satellite operators, and spacefaring nations.

The Russian antisatellite attack against Cosmos1408 in LEO caused a massive debris field, alarming the ISS crew, operators and other spacefaring nations.

COSMOS 1408 

Cosmos 1408, also spelt Kosmos 1408, was a Soviet ELINT (Electronic and Signals Intelligence) satellite launched from the Plesetsk cosmodrome on September 16, 1982. 

This device was created to pinpoint the exact location and activity of radio transmitters.

 On November 15, 2021, Cosmos 1408, no longer operational, was destroyed in a Russian kinetic anti-satellite test, generating a cloud of debris including some 1,500 pieces of trackable size.

Cosmos 1408 was approximately 300 miles away from Earth at that time and had created a debris cloud between 270 and 320 mile from Earth. 


ISS orbits approximately 260 miles above Earth’s Surface, but Monday was slightly lower at 250. This means that the debris crossed it over by about 20 miles when their orbits intersect.

Houston Mission Control instructed astronauts to reach safety in the escape pods of the ISS.  

You can call space junk or debris space. It is composed of old launch vehicles and parts from spacecraft, which float hundreds of miles in the air above Earth. This puts them at risk of colliding with satellites and other space stations.

A space explosion can cause debris, as well as missile testing by countries to intentionally destroy satellites with missiles. 

China, India, and Russia also have taken down satellites. The space debris has created an enormous trail that circled our planet. 

Based on sensors readings in low-earth orbit (LEO), the EU Space Surveillance and Tracking confirmed that Cosmos 1408 had been dissolved. 

According to the statement, “Kinetic antisatellite (ASAT), tests are often conducted against objects in orbit with the purpose of demonstrating and testing technological capabilities,” it stated. 

“Those space debris tests put at risk our infrastructure and human life aboard the International Space Station (ISS), as well as the sustainability of long-term space activities.  

Simulation of the initial dispersion of the fragments resulting from the reported anti-satellite weapon test on Monday, November 15

Simulated initial dispersion from fragments following the anti-satellite weapons test Monday, November 15.


Space debris will not affect the speed of space travel but it could cause serious problems for Earth orbital spaceflight.

The highest risk is for objects orbiting around at altitudes of approximately 1,000 km (620 miles). This area is used for communication and earth observation.

Holger Krag of ESA’s Space Safety Programme Office said that despite the difficulties in this area, we can still travel to Mars.

“But, if you wish to stay in the troubled region for many years, it might be impossible in just a few decades.”  

LeoLabs, a private space tracking company in the US, said there will be a potential collision risk to most satellites in low-Earth orbit due to the fragmentation of Cosmos 1408 ‘over the next few years to decades’. 

According to the company, a significant space breakup took place and Russia used direct-ascent missile (DA-ASAT), strike on one of its own satellites. 

This irresponsible act now affects all spacefaring nations as well as the entire space economy over many years. 

According to European Space Agency (ESA), swirling fragments from human-made satellites are orbiting Earth in an orbit. 

These debris objects increase in number, size, and area over time. This increases the danger to satellites that are not functioning properly and can even cause astronauts’ health problems.  

According to Hugh Lewis, a professor of engineering at the University of Southampton, each piece of space debris from the collision is moving at a different speed depending on the height of its orbit.

Professor Lewis created an image of himself that shows debris rising from the Earth and dispersing. 

Professor Lewis explained to the Verge that even though all the orbits start together, the difference is that larger orbits require more time to circle the Earth and smaller orbits take much less.  

3D graph of the cloud of tracked fragments as of November 18, 2021, as mapped by EU Space Surveillance and Tracking

3D graph of the cloud of tracked fragments as of November 18, 2021, as mapped by EU Space Surveillance and Tracking

“So those in lower orbits appear to advance more than the ones in higher ones. That’s how it stretches.

Debris from Cosmos 1408 simply adds to a cloud of junk that leads to an ever-increasing risk of collision. 

Space debris fragments as small as one centimetre can cause satellite destruction due to the speed they travel. 

According to NASA, there are about 23,000 pieces of debris larger than a softball orbiting the Earth.

A half-million pieces of debris are as large as a piece of marble. There are approximately 100 million pieces that measure 0.04 inches in size.

Screenshot from a visualisation by Hugh Lewis, a professor of engineering at the University of Southampton

Screenshot from a visualisation by Hugh Lewis, a professor of engineering at the University of Southampton

NASA asserts that there are even smaller debris (0.000039 inch diameter) 

ESA, meanwhile, estimates the total mass of all space objects in Earth orbit is more than 9,600 tonnes.  

According to the report, there were more than 560 explosions, break-ups and collisions that resulted in fragmentation. 

A European Commission expert warned in January that unwanted debris from low-Earth orbits could lead to the creation of an equivalent “new drifting islands of plastic”. 


There are an estimated 170 million pieces of so-called ‘space junk’ – left behind after missions that can be as big as spent rocket stages or as small as paint flakes – in orbit alongside some US$700 billion (£555bn) of space infrastructure.

However, only 27,000 of these fragments have been tracked and can travel at speeds exceeding 16,777 mph (277,000 kmh), which means that even very small parts could damage satellites or cause them to be destroyed.

Traditional gripping techniques don’t work well in spaces, since suction cups are not designed to operate in vacuums and the temperatures for glue and tape are too low.

Magnet-based grippers don’t work because much of the orbital debris around Earth is not magnetized.

Around 500k pieces of human-made waste (artist’s impression) orbit the planet currently. They are made up of bits and pieces from spacecraft, disused satellites, and used rockets

Many of the solutions suggested, such as debris harpoons and other debris-specific devices, require forceful interactions with the debris. These objects could be pushed in unpredictable, unintended directions.

Two major events are highlighted by scientists that contribute to space junk’s current problem.

It happened in February 2009. An Iridium communications satellite collided with a Kosmos-2251 Russian military satellite.

In January 2007, China used an anti-satellite weapon to destroy an older Fengyun weather satellite.

Experts also pointed out that two websites have become too chaotic.

Low Earth orbit is the one used for navigation satellites and China’s manned missions.

Another is found in geostationary orbit. It is used for communication, weather, and surveillance satellites, which must keep a fixed location relative to Earth.