Space debris has become a huge problem. Their accumulation in Earth's orbit has become a hindrance and can endanger future missions to the moon or Mars, according to the chief of a company that's trying to solve the issue.
A surge in aggressive space ventures in recent years has seen a build-up of space junk, and they are set to grow exponentially, Nobu Okada, founder and CEO of Astroscale, told CNBC at the World Economic Forum's Annual Meeting of the New Champions in Tianjin, China.
"Over the last 5 to 7 years, we saw (about) 2,000 space ventures in the world. Their plans are so aggressive, they're going to launch 10,000 to 20,000 satellites over the next 5 to 10 years," he said. "We see the exponential growth of objects in space."
There are more than 500,000 pieces of junk floating around Earth's orbit, including defunct satellites, rocket boosters, nuts and bolts, all of which pose a substantial threat to astronauts and spacecraft, according to U.S. space agency NASA. The European Space Agency said that as of January 2018, there are about 29,000 objects larger than 10 centimeters, around 750,000 objects that range between 1 cm to 10 cm and about 166 million objects between 1 millimeter to 1 cm in size.
Okada said that pieces of debris fly around the Earth throughout the day, and there are plenty of near-miss situations where two objects almost collide. When they do hit each other, those collisions end up creating even more debris.
"Even the small particle caused by the collision has enough power to blow up a satellite," he said. "If we continue the chain reactions of the collisions, we won't be able to put our space assets into space. So it's now (that) we have to remove large objects from space."