Space junk puts satellite business at risk

Outer space has a litter problem.

Earth orbit is filling up with man-made junk.

There are over 8,000 satellites up there, with more than 40% now inactive.

Then there are thousands of bits of random debris from old launches.

And that raises the risk of collisions, putting the satellite business at risk.

Insurers have told Reuters that they are increasingly wary of providing cover.

One, Assure Space, says it has generally stopped insuring spacecraft in low-earth orbit.

The few policies it has provided exclude collision damage.

Elon Musk is one to face questions.

His SpaceX rocket company has been busy launching satellites for its space-based broadband service.

The firm wouldn't say whether it had insurance.

Other major firms including Google, Amazon and Apple depend on satellites to move data.

Science, telecoms and other sectors would face huge challenges if orbital systems stopped working.

Industry experts say only half of all satellite launches are now insured, with that proportion expected to fall further.

Some fear that space could get so crowded that a cascade of collisions could be set off.

For now at least, that's theoretical.

Over the past decade only 11 spacecraft have been totally or partially destroyed by collisions, according to consultancy Seradata.

But the risks are growing, and that makes it ever harder to ignore the underlying problem.

Right now, no one is doing anything to tidy up space.

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