06/22/2011 04:00 EDT | Updated 08/22/2011 05:12 EDT

Space Junk Threatens Canadian Satellites


THE CANADIAN PRESS -- LONGUEUIL, Que. - There are 19,000 pieces of space debris, larger than the size of a baseball, floating around above the Earth and they're threatening Canadian satellites that provide valuable information.

The space junk has even left dents on the International Space Station, where astronauts have also ended up with cuts on their space gloves.

The threats caused by the debris are the focus of a two-day international conference held at the Canadian Space Agency, near Montreal.

A key official with the space agency is worried that several vital satellites could be hit by the space debris and knocked out of operation.

Dave Kendall, the agency's director-general of space science and technology, has been keeping an eye on two RADARSAT satellites which provide information about ice-infested waters to shipping companies and national defence.

He says there have been a dozen warnings in the last couple of years that the satellites were in danger — and those threats prompted five changes in their orbits in order to protect them.

Kendall has been chairman of the Inter-Agency Debris Coordination Committee, which held two days of workshops at the space agency in Longueuil, Que.

Participants included 100 representatives from industry, government departments, researchers and academia.

Officials from NASA and the European Space Agency were among those who made detailed presentations about the threats.