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Satellite 'license plates' and re-igniting rocket fuel could head off space junk crashes

About 20,000 pieces of space debris that are baseball size or larger are currently orbiting Earth.
February 28, 2020
Space Junk illustration, from Live Science.

Space Junk illustration, from Live Science.

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Approximately 5,000 satellites carry payloads into orbit around our planet, but only around 2,000 are active and communicating with Earth, said David Palmer, a Los Alamos space and remote-sensing scientist. 

"Currently, when something is launched — and a launch can release 100 or more satellites — the operators and the space surveillance people have to track every piece of space hardware that is released by the rocket and determine individually which piece is which." 

Palmer is the principal investigator for a project developing a type of electronic license plate for satellites. This will allow orbiters to broadcast their owners and positions for as long as they're in space, even after the satellite ceases to function.