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In 1958, the Space Age officially began with the launch of humanity's first artificial satellite - known as Sputnik 1. Constructed and orbited by the Soviet Union, this satellite was a simple technology demonstrator designed to emit radio pulses.

However, the impact its deployment had was much more far-reaching than that. Not only was this a pivotal moment in the history of human spaceflight, and a big scare for the West, it was also the first of thousands of satellites to be launched from Earth.

Today, roughly sixty years later, some 8,950 satellites have been launched by more than 40 nations into orbit. Based on the most recent estimates, about 5,000 of these satellites remain in orbit, though most have reached the end of their lifespan.

Only around 1,950 of these satellites remain operational while the rest have become space debris. These now-defunct satellites are joined by thousands of bits of debris, which are collectively referred to as "space junk".

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Category: Science