There is now believed to be an astonishing 170 million pieces of space debris floating in Earth’s upper atmosphere, but only 22,000 are being tracked.
The problem now appears to be out of control, and experts fear that a catastrophic collision could be on the way.
Technologies such as mobile phones, television, GPS and weather related services rely on satellites, so a cataclysmic series of crashes could pose a threat to our already over-reliant need for satellites.
Ben Greene, chief executive of Canberra’s Space Environment Research Centre (SERC) said: “There is so much debris that it is colliding with itself, and creating more debris.
“A catastrophic avalanche of collisions which could quickly destroy all orbiting satellites is now possible.”
Professor Moribah Jah, an expert on space debris from the University of Texas, likened the lack of information on space debris to the meteoric rise of drones.
He said: “The availability of drones in people’s hands has outpaced the Government’s ability to really regulate these things — I think we are facing the possibility of that with space.”
Professor Jah added that if action is not taken swiftly, a devastating collision is “inevitable”.
One potential solution that has been offered would be to gently shove satellite debris into outer space using laser technology.
Australian National University professor Matthew Colless said: “If we increase the power of the lasers that we have to actually gently push small bits of space junk, that makes them fall back to Earth more rapidly and burn up harmlessly in the atmosphere.”