I recently read about the Kessler Syndrome and am thinking about writing a story set in a world suffering from it. In the interest of realism, I am curious about the secondary effects which would be produced by this kind of scenario.

  • About what distance would the debris cloud reside? How deep would it be?
  • Would the debris cloud destroy satellites? Some satellites? All satellites? Could you build a satellite which would survive it?
  • What would be the effects on the ground? Would there be frequent meteor showers? Would the meteor showers cause damage? Would the sun or stars be obscured?
  • How long would the cloud last? How could it be manually eliminated?

I understand that there are a huge number of variables here, and that many of the answers depend upon how the syndrome got its start. I'm just curious about the best-case and worst-case scenarios. For the best-case scenario, imagine that the International Space Station explodes. For worst-case, imagine that 433 Eros is in geosynchronous orbit and explodes.

I also understand that this is a subjective question. I am trying to make it a good subjective question.

  • $\begingroup$ I think it's not really a physics question, more of an engineering/environmental one. $\endgroup$
    – Sklivvz
    Nov 9 '10 at 21:11
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ I think Sklivvz may be right, you're probably looking for more engineering/environmental information than pure physics. Certainly there would be physics involved, but I think you might have to ask a more specific question for it to really fit in this site. $\endgroup$
    – David Z
    Nov 9 '10 at 22:17
  • $\begingroup$ As with most such scenarios the danger is in going overboard with the fear, uncertainty and doubt. It is becoming increasingly clear that we can lower launch costs by probably two orders of magnitude and that a space-economy will, most likely, take off as part of that. This will deposit hundreds, if not thousands of times as much mass in all orbits as there is now, so the Kessler-effect won't become a catastrophe to fear but constant orbital cleanup will become a simple cost-of-doing-business line item. $\endgroup$
    – CuriousOne
    Feb 5 '16 at 4:45

If you read Kessler explanation at http://webpages.charter.net/dkessler/files/KesSym.html , he predicts that the dangerous region will be between 800 km and 1000 km. And that you do not deed a special event to start it. Just continue to launch satellites.

And the ISS is not so dangerous, because it is in low earth orbit, and the debris will quickly (a few years) fall down sue to atmospheric friction.

I do not think that the geosynchronous orbit is a big problem, because it is only the equator of a big sphere (36000 km radius).


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