The launch of SpaceX’s latest batch of Starlink satellites has sparked fears about the current status of space junk currently surrounding Earth. According to experts, the continuous deployment of satellites could soon boost the number of moderately-sized space junk in low-Earth orbit to reach a million.

On Monday, SpaceX successfully launched 60 Starlink units through its Falcon 9 rocket. It marked the second batch of satellites deployed by the company as part of its Starlink initiative, which aims to deliver fast and reliable internet connection from space.

Previously, SpaceX confirmed that it plans to carry out regular launches for Starlink until it reaches its goal of establishing 12,000 satellites in low-Earth orbit. Last month, it was revealed that the company wants an additional 30,000 satellites for Starlink, bringing in the total to 42,000.

Apart from SpaceX, its rival company OneWeb also expressed its intent to launch hundreds of its own satellites into space. Like Starlink, OneWeb’s satellites also aims to provide internet service from space.

With thousands of satellites about to launch into space, experts are worried about what would happen if these break down. Eventually, these tiny spacecraft will end up as orbiting junk around Earth.

"If things break in space, it's pretty difficult to solve that problem," Tim Farrar, the president of the satellite communications research and consulting firm TMF Associates, told NPR. "It's not like your car breaking down on the side of the road."

According to the European Space Agency (ESA), there are about 900,000 pieces of space junk smaller than 10 centimeters in low-Earth orbit. If companies continue to deploy their own satellites into space, this number could soon reach a million or even more.

As previous reports have shown, the overcrowding in Earth’s vicinity has become a serious problem. A couple of months ago, one of SpaceX’s Starlink units almost collided with an ESA satellite. The fender-bender was avoided after the latter decided to fire up its thrusters to move out of the way.

For experts, proper regulations must be enacted in order to control the number of satellites and spacecraft going into space. Protocols should also be put in place to prevent collisions in low-Earth orbit.

A SpaceX Starlink satellite A SpaceX Starlink satellite in orbit (illustration) Photo: SpaceX