Two high-speed pieces of space junk lost a major collision

Two high-speed pieces of space junk lost a major collision

The dead Soviet satellite and the abandoned Chinese rocket body flew into space each other this week but avoided a catastrophe on Thursday night.

Leo Labs, a company that uses radar Track satellites and debris In space, Said On Tuesday, it observed a “very high-risk” combination – a split in the orbit of two objects around the Earth.

The company has used its radar array to monitor both objects as it passes overhead three or four times a day since Friday.

Data indicate that two large space junks were lost to each other 8 to 43 m (26 to 141 feet) Thursday night at 8:56 ET.

On Wednesday, when the estimated distance was just 12 meters (19 feet), Leo Labs estimated a 10 percent chance of objects colliding.

Although it may seem small, NASA regularly moves the International Space Station when the orbiting laboratory faces a 0.001 percent (1 in 100,000) chance of colliding with an object.

Since the Soviet satellite and the Chinese rocket body are out of order, no one can cross each other. If they collided, the astronomer said, an explosion equivalent to the explosion of 14 metric tons of TNT would send rocketing debris in all directions. Jonathan McDowell.

When the rocket body flew over a Leo Labs radar 10 minutes after fusion, there was only one object – the company tweeted, “no signs of debris.”

“The bullet was dodged,” McDowell said Said On Twitter. “But space debris is still a big problem.”

Because the moons travel at an altitude of 991 km (616 miles) above the Earth and over the paths over the Weddell Sea in Antarctica, a collision would not endanger anyone on Earth. The resulting cloud of thousands of space fragments would be an accident in Earth’s orbit.

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Aerospace Corporation experts say the likelihood of a collision is very low: only one in 23 billion, as of Thursday morning, predict that objects will lose 70 meters (230 feet) from each other.

“The space debris community is constantly warning us of these next approaches, and we are not lying or lying about it,” Ted Mulhopt, who oversees Aerospace Corporation’s space debris analysis, told Business Insider.

“Any one of them is a low probability event, because the space is still very large. But when you take these items and mix them up, sooner or later you’re going to see a reward. With most of our models, we have expired for another big collision.”

Space collisions create clouds of dangerous rapid debris

About 130 million bits of space junk It is currently orbiting the Earth from abandoned satellites, disintegrated space probes and other missions. That debris travels at about 10 times the speed of a bullet, no matter how small the pieces, enough to cause catastrophic damage to vital equipment.

Such a hit would kill the astronauts on the spacecraft.

Collisions between space junk pieces minimize the problem because they split objects into smaller pieces.

“Every time there is a big collision, it is a big change in Leo [low-Earth orbit] Environment, ”said Dan Sepperley, CEO of Leo Labs Previously told Business Insider.

Two events in 2007 and 2009 increased the amount of large debris in the Earth’s lower orbit About 70 percent.

The first was the Chinese test of an anti-satellite missile, in which China became one of its own weather satellites. Two years later, an American spacecraft accidentally collided with a Russian plane.

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“Because of that, there’s a kind of debris now,” Sepperley said.

In 2019, India conducted its own anti-satellite missile test, which estimated the explosion 6,500 pieces Larger than an eraser.

The satellite captured by India had a mass of less than one metric ton.

Combined, the Soviet satellite and the Chinese rocket body weigh about three metric tons (2,800 kilograms). Given those large sizes, a collision could create a cloud of dangerous debris.

High-risk satellite combinations are becoming more common

This is not the first time Leo Labs has informed the world about the potential for high-risk satellite integration. The company calculated in January Dead space telescope likely to collide with former U.S. Air Force satellite.

The objects were not damaged, but Zeppelly said that basically no one was watching them closely because both satellites were shut down.

The space agency told Business Insider at the time that the U.S. Air Force, which monitors satellites for the government, had not notified NASA of the crash.

Expert warnings about space junk grew more urgent after that miss.

“We see a recent decision on the number of combinations,” said Dan Altrog, an astronomer researching orbital debris at Incore Analytical Graphics, Business Insider.

AllTrog uses a software system that has been collecting and evaluating integrated data for the past 15 years. The breakthrough in recent orbital collisions seems to be in line with the launch of the new large-galaxy spacecraft.

The big stars he mentions are the clusters of Internet satellites that companies like SpaceX, Amazon and OneWeb intend to launch. In all, companies plan to launch more than a million satellites by the end of the decade. Since May 2019, SpaceX has already launched more than 800 new satellites into Earth’s orbit.

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A debris catastrophe will destroy our access to space

When the space-junk problem is exacerbated, a network of collisions becomes uncontrollable and orbits the Earth in an impossible field of debris. Donald J. Snyder, who worked at NASA’s Johnson Space Center and calculated in a 1978 paper. This event, known as the Kessler event, will take hundreds of years to remove the debris needed to make Kessler space travel safe again.

“This is a long-term result that has been going on for decades and centuries,” Mylohopt said Told the business insider In January. “Anything that causes a lot of debris will increase that risk.”

The number of objects in Earth’s orbit may already be having a Kessler-like effect – a risk described last week by Rocket Lab CEO Peter Beck.

“It has a huge impact on the launch side,” he said Told CNN Business, Rockets “should try to lead between [satellite] Zodiac signs.

This article was originally published Business Insider.

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