Graveyard Orbits Where Old Satellites Are Forgotten

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When a satellite is designed these days it’s also important to think about what happens at the end of its lifetime, for more LEO satellites they’ll happily decay and fall into the atmosphere on their own. But there are many cases where this can’t happen, either because the spacecraft doesn’t have the fuel, or because the satellite is dangerous. For these, there’s a retirement home in the graveyard orbit.

  1. David Urry

    Hey, so what about this new “Green Fuel” that SpaceX is launching in a satellite on the 24th?

  2. Phillip Mulligan

    It’s been over a year and half since you last played on Star Citizen. Back then it was early prealpha. Try it now, It’s starting to feel like a game. Updates are now happening quarterly now. Come back and fly with us.

  3. Péter Szabados

    Did you notice that eclipse at 3:26?

  4. John Richards

    When I die I want my coffin to be placed in this graveyard.

  5. Light Science

    Can I somehow double subscribe?

  6. Salainen

    A plasma wind tunnel sounds like a good parachuting simulator…

  7. Roger C

    All nuclear reactors WILL crash, maybe 🌙

  8. Jacob Wagner

    Thank you for teaching me soo much! Much gratitude!

  9. justpaulo

    Graveyard Orbits – because every new satellite has the right to fly safe !

  10. david johanson

    i refuse to fly safe . . .

  11. Flat Enough

    What a load of hokum.
    Prove your fantasy “sphere Earth” first, that only exists in screens and imagination.

  12. Ariel Sproul

    so we really do have to fly safe

  13. Anton Litvin

    Greate video! thx. What is app you use in this video to show satellite orbits?

  14. Carl Williams

    How does the moon affect these geostationary and graveyard orbits?

  15. Amir Haghdani

    Clean it all up, that is the right thing to do. Letting things sit around is not.

  16. D Snodgrass

    Asteroid defense: hit it with old satellites until it gives up or breaks up.

  17. Greg Ewing

    7:20 “Scotty, eject the warp core!”

  18. redoxee

    Have you or will you do a video on lagrange points?

  19. antsolja

    i cant find the eesa video anywhere

  20. Andrew Schmidt

    How about launch vehicle second/final stages? Are they handled similarly? A video on stage disposal, deactivation, passivation, etc would be really interesting!

  21. Terry Day

    I’m confident that there are lots of brilliant minds working out ways to reclaim dead satellites. Can you just imagine how many billions of dollars worth of recyclable materials are just floating around in space? I’m talking about gold, platinum, rare earth elements and possibly even whole components that could be repurposed.

  22. HardProduct

    WOW I really liked this video!

  23. koshua

    ok but there is a giant squid video

  24. Wyatt Nooodles

    not first lmao

  25. Cadde

    “Where they should be isn’t well defined, only where they shouldn’t be”
    Sort of like how the London sewer system worked before they started cleaning the shit out of the river.
    Residents took a fat dump and the shit flowed out unprocessed into the river and out into the ocean.

  26. steve shoemaker

    l always wondered about this thanks…A bunch…!

  27. Asger Vestbjerg

    Nice, thanks for sharing :-)

  28. Aaron C

    Please make a video inhaling sulfur hexafluoride

  29. EnraEnerato

    I just wonder, would a nuclear reactor on a geostationary satelite be usefull? You could use realy big solarpanels easily but the reactor is smaler and runs more reliable, as is’t in the spacecraft and should deliver a higher KW/KG ratio then a solarpanel?
    I remember NASA developping one which works based of radioactive decay heat in tandem with a stirling-solution (this would requirre heat dispersion elements, which we don’t want if possible.)

  30. VedTraed

    Nuclear accidents aside, I had no idea that actual NaK reactors have been successfully deployed. I always believed that they never left the research laboratories.

  31. 98grand5point9

    Why waste all of that valuable material that was so expensive to launch into space? A factory should be established and they should be collected and recycled.

  32. christotaku B.

    Congrats on 900K

  33. Keith Reynolds

    I imagine, one day, all that junk up there may be recycled into spaceship that goto deep space.

  34. Zachary Hutchison

    So i’ve heard that orbital rings aren’t stable, but what if it’s not rigid? What if it’s a series of satellites/ stations strung together like mardis gras beads?

  35. cmonkey63

    So we went from Arthur C Clarke’s PhD thesis in the late 1940s which talked about the mere possibility of a satellite, to the first one in 1957, to having a problem of too much junk in space. Like, wow. And to think that some people worry about plastic drinking straws.

  36. Nelson Brown

    9:33 reminded me of “The Missile Knows Where It Is”.

  37. B G

    Once again simulations… where are real time pictures of all these sats in orbit

  38. Adymn Sani

    that is a lot of information, thanks…just think all that mined, smelted, and processed metals out there for the taking…

  39. R S

    DirecTV? what a waste of valuable space

  40. Zhu Bajie

    Don’t want to land in no … Or the Yukon Territory (no no no) -Jimmy Buffet “Volcano” Released: November 1979

  41. Pup314

    I was wondering if there was an video map of all the sky from microwave to gamma ray frequencies? If so can you do a video on it please?

  42. TheVergile

    so thats where the space goths hang out

  43. Simply Space

    Interesting topic, thanks Scott. I didn’t know about the inclination perturbation complication.

  44. LutzDerLurch

    Can you link the original video, please?

  45. frankpinmtl

    Can we get a roentgen count on those radioactive bullets, please? I have recently become an expert on the subject…

  46. LiquidDestruction

    We keep doing stuff like this and we’ll end up with a “Great Space Garbage Patch the size of France!”
    But I’ve played enough KSP, it’s hard to keep space clean

  47. Donglord Meme

    Man hearing bout junkyard in space…..i belive in 10 years time we will have junk collector for picking up satellite

  48. Christopher Willis

    I had one of those “Oh god why hadn’t I thought of that before” moments about geostationary orbits for this video. Never really considered the axial tilt before and the moon disturbing the orbits up and down. It is so obvious when you show it, I just never thought of it before!

  49. Adam Bernstein

    In the next 10 years we are going to be in a position where BFR is going to be making very regular trips to all orbits where either the sole intention is to pick up and deobrit decommission satellites that don’t have a ‘quick enough’ decay time orbit wise, or they do it after delivering a new satellite.
    The technology is definitely there, BFR is more than capable of going to GEO and bringing back many satellites probably more than a dozen of some of the heaviest and highest volume satellites we have out there.
    Also, satellites are becoming more efficient etc, they are becoming lighter and smaller, I wouldn’t be surprised if their capacity to return to Earth from GEO is actually higher.
    Plus they only need to return more satellites per year than become dead or sent to graveyard orbit.
    The question is funding.
    1. Elon Musk is guaranteed to do this to some degree because he recognises the need to have clear highways in space and he will do it to some degree.
    2. Government could pay for a set amount per year
    3. Telcoms could collaborate and pay SpaceX since its in their best interest.

  50. greatsilentwatcher

    Always enjoy watching. This was one I particularly enjoyed since I actually understood most of what you were discussing…

  51. bingo_fuel

    those have gotta be the loneliest satellites :(

  52. aurell

    Soviet unions US-A spacecraft
    Oh you

  53. Julian Moretti

    When you gonna work for NASA already?

  54. Nine Hundred Dollar Luxury Yacht

    Geosynchronous graveyard orbit looks like a better place for a space-mine than digging up regolith on the moon, mars or an asteroid and then trying to smelt usable metals from them. Dead satellites are made of refined metals and even have parts made in useful shapes like empty fuel tanks, structural members, thrusters and solar panels.

  55. Jackson Powerz

    I love your content! Thank you Scott

  56. Bishop Vick

    I think its important to point out that while the representation of these look quite big, they are actually essentially microscopic to each other

  57. Dr Vidya

    Who manages all these satellites? Are there teams for each one, or each family?
    There must be thousands of satellites now. Is there a modest non-descript office in Nebraska somewhere?

  58. Richard Maier

    too bad we can’t move them to L3 or 4 using a Molynina w/boost.

  59. Kevin Miedema

    graveyard orbits? that screams to be uneccesarily literally recreated in ksp. that’s where ill bury my kerbals.

  60. Jim Fortune

    What ever happened to the experiments using a long wire (hundreds of meters) that creates drag by passing through the earth’s magnetic field and generating electricity?

  61. Слободан Станковић

    2019, maybe some real pictures,photo please!

  62. David Messer

    Thanks. I was curious about why they boost geostationary satellites to a higher orbit rather than a lower one. Now I know!

  63. Bruce Goodwin

    Possible to provide a lesson re: chart at 1:20 video? How is average orbit lifetime calculated? Excellent, Dr. Manley/thank you.

  64. jhaarni

    Please do a video about the different orbits and orbit changes of the latest Falcon Heavy mission!

  65. THypher1

    Seeing the bit of spacecraft melting in the plasma makes me remember Columbia. She almost made it back through the heating part of reentry too, with her crew…

  66. Dave B

    *Can you make a video on plasma wind tunnels with lots of video using your Scottish accent to talk ESA into it* ?

  67. Doug Bader blew my mind. Pretty cool site for when you need a reality check about what is up there…

  68. PastorVor

    I love this real-world stuff!
    Great Show! Thanks!

  69. 4102Patrick

    Hey Scott.
    Could you do another “what kerbal doesn’t teach you” video about the lagrange points?
    Until now (and because of ksp), i thought it’s rather easy to have a satellite flying just behind or ahead of the earth in the same orbit^^

  70. TeoTomTasTer

    Umm I live in Canada under the line you drew…
    is that bad?

  71. jcattera

    I think this video would make those Flat Earther’s heads explode!

  72. jabberw0k

    I am really hoping this video is going to tell me how I can launch my corpse into orbit.

  73. assassinlexx

    So we are using old stuff to be shields against meteors. Ok playing pool in space

  74. Mauricio Alanis

    Thanks for explaining those graveyard orbits! It’s something I have always wondered about, as far as their locations near other birds in the Clarke belt.

  75. Shashank Sharma

    How about using a solar Sail to gradually reduce its orbit and make it crash on to earth? Conversely we could send it into heliocentric orbit

  76. Platinum Boi

    Interesting video, keep up the great work Scott!

  77. Colonel Graff

    F L Y
    S A F E

  78. Eugene Sesma III

    Never heard of Plasma Wind Tunnels. Time to get lost on YouTube!

  79. Jim's videos

    So I guess once you master rocket science you’re ready to dabble in orbital mechanics.

  80. Inritus618

    There was a solar eclipse at around 3:20, pretty neat to have caught that.

  81. Moje Imja

    why canada was so afraid of this radiation, it was only 3.6 roentgens per hour!

  82. forfengeligfaen

    Could you do a video about L4 and L5?

  83. Thirst Fast

    nothing like dealing with a shotgun blast of radioactive NaK

  84. C Rodriguez

    Any chance for a detailed video on Combustion Instability?

  85. Mike Cowen

    Quark! (1977) Where are you?! There’s trash to collect. Bring the Bettys!

  86. Billy Ritchie

    When I die I want my coffin be launch by spacex into a graveyard orbit sitting in my lazyboy

  87. // REDACT3D

    holy smokes a reference to Canadian history! 🇨🇦 woot!
    keep up the great work bud!

  88. kakarroto007

    *Graveyard Orbits: When You Can’t Afford a Viking Funeral.*
    Most epic subtitle for a space video, ever.

  89. Rose Whittle

    Now I’ve got an idea for a scifi plot about a space crew scavenging graveyard orbits

  90. TheSpatulaCity

    “I’m Scott Manley, deorbit safe!”

  91. Rhaythe

    Plasma Wind Tunnel.
    I mean, just those words alone… I want one…

  92. 52chevy3100

    Years ago I had a class held by Intelsat, and the instructor was saying it is so competitive with space on the geostationary orbit even after a satellite is no longer useful if it still has fuel they will keep it in position for as long as possible as a placeholder.

  93. Don Guru de Bro

    Damn, that ESA Video is F*ing awesome! 😍

  94. Brian Perkins

    1:35 “As you go further out, there is actually a lot more space available.”

  95. Albert Batfinder

    There should be an ongoing cost involved in leaving satellites up there. Implement a system of parking meteors.
    I’ll get my coat.

  96. Brandon Waldo

    Demisable material. That’s a new one for me.

  97. Samira Peri

    TIL plasma windtunnels are a thing.

  98. zapfanzapfan

    Slowly but surely building rings around our planet. Because if you like it, put a ring on it ;-)

  99. Vikrant Sharma

    “Like shotgun pellets, except they’re radioactive.”

  100. Sean McNamara

    Do the satellite operators write them an orbit-uary?
    I’ll see myself out.

Comments are closed.