THE LAUNCH of “mega-constellations” of thousands of communication satellites could lead to a rise in collisions and build-up of space junk in Earth’s orbit, scientists have warned

Dr Hugh Lewis, from the University of Southampton claims that future launches of satellites by private companies could add to the amount of space junk and increase the risk of collisions.

Private firms are expected to launch mega constellations consisting of low-cost satellites as early as next year in a bid to boost broadband coverage across the world.

Research carried out by Dr Lewis and his team of experts found that adding these constellations to space would result in a 50% increase in the number of collisions between satellites over the next 200 years disrupting services they provide on the ground.

Consequently, they claim migration deadlines need to be updated to incorporate measures including deploying more missions to remove faulty satellites from orbit and making satellites smaller and more lightweight.

He said: ““The constellations that are due to be deployed from next year contain an unprecedented number of satellites - and a constellation launched without much thought will see a significant impact on the space environment because of the increased rate of collisions.

“The good news is that there are opportunities for mega-constellation operators to address these issues, through good design and by aiming to do better than the minimum required of them.”

The findings will now be presented to the InterSpace Debris Coordination committee (IAC) for further debate.