A dead Soviet satellite and an abandoned Chinese rocket body have crashed into each other rapidly in space this week, but were far from a catastrophic accident on Thursday night.
Leo Labs, a company that uses radar Track satellites and debris In space, Said On Tuesday it said it was monitoring a “very high-risk” conjunction – an intersection of two objects’ orbits around Earth.
The company used its radar array to monitor every two objects when it crossed the overhead three or four times a day from Friday.
Data indicate that two large pieces of space junk are missing from each other 8 to 43 meters (26 to 141 feet) Thursday night at 8:56 p.m.
On Wednesday, when the estimated miss distance was just 12 meters (19 feet), Leo Labs calculated a 10 percent chance of hitting objects.
It may seem trivial, but NASA normally moves the International Space Station when the orbiting laboratory is only 0.001 percent (1 in 100,000) more likely to encounter iding with an object.
Since both the Soviet satellite and the Chinese rocket body were not working, no one could move them out of each other. The astronomer said that if they were ide, an explosion equivalent to the explosion of 14 metric tons of TNT would send rockets of debris in all directions. Jonathan McDowell.
10 minutes after the fusion, when the rocket body flew over Leo Labs radar, there was only one object – the company tweeted that “there were no signs of debris”.
“Bullet Dodge,” McDowell Said On Twitter. “But space debris is still a big problem.”
The collision may not have endangered anyone on Earth, as the satellites are 991 kilometers (616 miles) from Earth and cross the Antarctic Ocean over the Veddel Sea. But as a result thousands of spacecraft fragments were dangerous in Earth’s orbit.
Experts at Aerospace Corporation have calculated very few collisions: 1 in just 23 billion by Thursday morning, with objects estimated to miss 70 meters (230 feet) from each other.
“The space-wreck community is constantly alerting us to these close policies, and we are not lying or lying about it,” Ted Mulhapt, who oversees The Aerospace Corporation’s space-wreck analysis, told Business Insider.
“Any of them is a low probability event, because the space is still very large. But when you take these items and combine them, sooner or later you’ll see the rewards. It’s time for us to go through another big collision with our models.”
Space collisions make clouds of dangerous high-speed debris
Nearly 130 million bits of space junk Currently orbiting the Earth, from abandoned satellites, detached spaceship and other missions. Those debris travel at about 10 times the speed of a bullet, which is fast enough to cause deadly damage to important equipment no matter how small the pieces.
Such a hit can kill astronauts on a spaceship.
The problem is exacerbated when collisions between space junk pieces cause objects to disintegrate into smaller pieces.
“Every time there is a big conflict, it’s a big change in LEO [low-Earth orbit] Environment, ”Dan Sepperley, CEO of Leo Labs Previously told Business Insider.
Two events in 2007 and 2009 increased the size of large debris in low Earth orbit 70 percent.
The first was the China test of an anti-satellite missile, in which China fired one of its own weather satellites. Two years later, an American spacecraft accidentally hit a Russian.
“Because of that, there’s a debris belt now,” Sepperley said.
India conducted its own satellite missile test in 2019, and that explosion created a prediction 6,500 ruins Larger than the eraser.
The satellite fired by India has a mass of less than one metric ton.
Combined, the Soviet satellite and the Chinese rocket body that cared for each other weighed nearly three metric tons (2,800 kilograms). Depending on those large volumes, the collision could create a significant cloud of hazardous debris.
High-risk satellite combinations are becoming more common
This is not the first time Leo Labs has warned the world about the possibility of a high-risk satellite merger. In January, the company calculated Collision between Dead Space Telescope and old US Air Force satellite.
Objects did not crash, but Seperley said the two satellites were “canceled, so basically no one was keeping an eye on them.”
The U.S. Air Force, which tracks satellites for the government, did not inform NASA about the potential collision, the space agency told Business Insider at the time.
Expert warnings about space junk grew even more urgent from that miss.
“We have recently determined the number of combinations,” Dan Oltrog, an astronomer, told Business Insider, which researched orbital debris at Analytical Graphics, Inc.
Oltrose uses a software system that has been collecting and estimating conjunction data for the past 15 years. In recent times in orbital encounters, he says, “seems to be well-connected with the newly launched large-star cluster spacecraft.”
The largest constellations he represents are Internet satellite clusters, which companies like SpaceX, Amazon and OneWeb plan to launch. In total, the companies plan to launch more than 100,000 satellites by the end of the decade. Since May 2019, SpaceX has already launched nearly 800 new satellites into Earth orbit.
The catastrophe of wreckage can reduce our access to space
If the space-junk problem is exacerbated, the chain of collisions will get out of control and surround the Earth in an impassable field of debris. Donald J. Snyder, who worked at NASA’s Johnson Space Center and calculated in a 1978 paper.
“It’s a long-term impact that will last for decades and centuries,” Mulhapt said Told Business Insider In January. “Anything that does a lot of debris increases that risk.”
The number of objects in Earth’s orbit could already have a Kessler-like effect – a risk described last week by Rocket Lab CEO Peter Beck.
“It will have a huge impact on the launch side,” he said Told CNN Business, Rockets “should try and weave between these [satellite] Constellations. “
This article was originally published Business Insider.
More from Business Insider: