- An abandoned Chinese rocket stage and a Soviet-era satellite collided with Earth overnight.
- The collision would have created a huge new space debris and would have exacerbated our current space problem.
- As we continue to launch more and more satellites, the chances of space junk influencing crude missions are increasing.
If you have not already heard: Space junk is becoming a real problem. Man-made debris floats in Earth’s orbit, endangering future space missions and existing programs such as the International Space Station. This is getting worse, as companies like SpaceX regularly plan to launch thousands of satellites on a regular basis.
Thursday night, the severity of our space junk problem Lots clear An old rocket stage from a Chinese mission seems to be colliding with an already dead Soviet satellite. Scientists observing both objects have broken down the numbers and determined that objects have a 10% chance of colliding, which is very high and of course worth noting. Thankfully, two large space debris were lost to each other, but that means we can return to ignoring our space junk woes.
I know what you’re thinking: “Well, so an old and dead Soviet satellite hit a part of a Chinese rocket. So why? “
While it is true that none of the pieces of debris were functional or important to existing operations, a collision would still be devastating. When man-made objects in space run at high speeds, they create more debris. That is, two large objects become dozens, hundreds, or even thousands of small but dangerous objects that continue to orbit the Earth.
We observe a high risk between two large inactive objects in Leo. Multiple data points show a missed distance of <25 m, PC 1% to 20%. The combined mass of the two materials is 8 2,800 kg.
Object 1: 19826
Object 2: 36123
TCA: October 16 00: 56UTC
Event Height: 991 km pic.twitter.com/6yWDx7bziw
– Leo Labs, Inc. (eLeoLabs_Space) October 13, 2020
Even these small objects can cause serious problems for space missions, as they can cause incredible damage if they hit a key piece of cosmic machinery, such as a bolt traveling at high speed. If heaven forbids, if a spacecraft crashes or crashes into a small fast-moving metal on its way to a space station or the moon, the results will be catastrophic.
On top of that, an object is small and difficult to track from the ground. Two large objects are a problem, for sure, but a thousand small objects moving at different speeds and in new directions can cause disaster.
The good news is that the satellite and the rocket stage did not collide with each other. However, the risk of such an event does not go away immediately. Many countries have proposed ways to clear Earth’s orbit and remove large space junk, but so far very little progress has been made.