# Is there a serious risk to airliners from satellite debris 12 miles up?

• jeffinbath
In summary, satellites will be falling out of orbit and there is a small risk to airplanes if they hit them.
jeffinbath
Gold Member
More and more satellites will be at the end of their lives over the next few years and falling out of orbit. Is there not a risk to the thousands of high flying airliners if these small objects have still not fully burned up by the time they hit the 12 mile high region do you think?

That's still a tiny amount if debris in a vast sky.

I thought airliners went only seven miles up.

There is more risk from meteors, I would think.

russ_watters
I think there is more risk to people on the ground from airplanes falling out of the sky.

What fraction of a satellite burns up in the last 12 miles? Supposing it is moving at orbital speeds and going at more-or-less vertical, that last 12 miles is going to be round about 2 seconds. So some of will burn up in the last 12 miles. But it has come in from LEO which is round about 120 miles. Or higher. The bulk of any burning has already happened. If it makes it to 12 miles it probably hits the ground.

So the differential risk at 12 miles is small. That is, the chance of getting hit in an airplane at 12 miles is only very slightly greater than on the ground.

Despite the word "serious" in the title, I don't think the OP made a serious attempt.

There are around 10,000 planes in the air at any one time. The area covered by a narrowbody plane is about 500m2. So 5 km2 of the earth's surface has an airplane over it. That's 1/10,000,000 of the Earth.

That's the starting point - things just get smaller from there.

nsaspook
Despite the word "serious" in the title, I don't think the OP made a serious attempt.

There are around 10,000 planes in the air at any one time. The area covered by a narrowbody plane is about 500m2. So 5 km2 of the earth's surface has an airplane over it. That's 1/10,000,000 of the Earth.

That's the starting point - things just get smaller from there.

Close to zero risks to airplanes.

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