A dead Soviet satellite and an abandoned Chinese rocket body flew into space this week, but avoided a catastrophic crash on Thursday night.
LeoLabs, a company that uses radar to track satellites and debris in space, Said Tuesday that he is observing a “very dangerous” connection – an intersection in the orbit of two objects around the Earth.
Since Friday the company has used its radar array to observe each of the two objects as they pass overhead three or four times a day since Friday.
The data suggest that two large pieces of space junk missed each other 8 to 43 meters (26 to 141 feet) Thursday at 8:56 p.m.
On Wednesday, when the estimated missed distance was only 12 meters (19 feet), LeoLabs calculated a 10 percent chance that objects would collide.
It may seem small, but NASA regularly moves the International Space Station when a rotating laboratory is only 0.001 percent (1-in-100,000) more likely to collide with an opportunity or object object.
Since both the Soviet satellite and the Chinese rocket body failed, no one was able to move them out of each other. If they had collided, about 14 metric tons of TNT would have sent debris debris bits in all directions as the explosion exploded, according to the astronomer. Jonathan McDowell.
But when the rocket body LeoLabs passed over the radar 10 minutes later together there was only one object – “no signs of debris,” the company tweeted.
“Bullets dodge,” McDowell said Said On Twitter. “But space debris is still a big problem.”
Probably a collision would not be a threat to anyone on Earth, as the satellites traverse 1991 kilometers (16,116 miles) above the ground and above the Waddell Sea in Antarctica. But the resulting cloud of thousands of spaceship fragments would have become a crisis in Earth orbit.
Experts from Erspace Corporation calculated very few obstacles to collide: By Thursday morning, only 1 in 23 billion objects would miss each other by about 70 meters (230 feet).
“The space-debris community is constantly on the lookout for all of these approaches, and we’re not saying anything wrong or wrong about this,” Ted Muelhopte, who oversees the aerospace corporation’s space-debris analysis, told Business Insider.
“Given any of them is unlikely to happen, as space is still large. But when you take these objects and you merge them, sooner or later you’ll see a pay. By most of our models we’re left for another big collision.” Term. “
Space collisions create dangerous high speed debris clouds
About 130 million bits of space junk are currently orbiting the Earth, surrounded by abandoned satellites, spacecraft and other scattered objects. It travels at about 10 times the speed of a debris bullet, which is very soon enough to cause catastrophic damage to living devices despite small equipment.
Such a hit could kill astronauts on the spacecraft.
Collisions between pieces of space junk make the problem worse as they break into smaller pieces.
“Every time there’s a big collision, it’s a big change in LEO [low-Earth orbit] The environment, ”Dion Caperley, CEO of LeoLabs, previously told Business Insider.
Two events in 2007 and 2009 have increased the amount of massive debris in low-Earth orbit by about 70 percent.
The first was a Chinese test of an anti-satellite missile, in which China launched one of its own weather satellites. Then two years later, an American spacecraft accidentally collided with a Russian.
“Because of that, there’s a debris belt right now,” Sapperley said.
India conducted its own anti-satellite missile test in 2019, and an estimated 6,500 pieces of debris were created as a way to erase that explosion.
The amount of satellites that India flew was less than one metric ton.
The combined, Soviet satellite and Chinese rocket body D, which have handled each other well, have a mass of about three metric tons (2,800 kg). Given its large size, collisions can cause a significant cloud of dangerous debris.
High-risk satellite connections have become more common
This is not the first time LeoLabs has warned the world of the possibility of a high-risk satellite connection. In January, the company calculated a possible collision between the Dead Space Telescope and an old US Air Force satellite.
Cra Bjackets was not broken, but Caperly said because both satellites were “demoted, basically no one was watching them.”
The U.S. Air Force, which tracks satellites for the government, did not report the potential collision to NASA, the space agency told Business Insider at the time.
Experts’ warnings about space junk have grown more immediate than the near misses.
“We are currently seeing a definite decision on the number of combinations,” Dan Liltroge, an astrologer who researched orbital debris at Analytic Graphics, Inc., told Business Insider.
Lt. Lotroge uses a software software system that collects and assesses conjugation data over the last 15 years. Recent excitement in orbital encounters, he added, “has begun with new large-star spacecraft that seem to be very well aligned.”
They are a fleet of Internet satellites of the big stars that companies like SpaceX, Amazon and OneWeb are planning to launch. In total, the companies plan to launch more than 100,000 satellites by the end of the decade. SpaceX has already launched about 800 new satellites into Earth orbit since May 2019.
A wreck will cut off our reach of space
If the space-junk problem was to become extreme, the collision chain could spiral out of control in an inaccessible area of debris and take place around the Earth. Donald J. Since Kessler, who worked for NASA’s Johnson Space Center and calculated in a 1978 paper, the possibility has been dubbed the Castle event, as it could take hundreds of years to contain such debris to make spaceflight safer again.
“It’s a long-term impact that has been going on for decades and centuries,” Muelhopte told Business Insider in January. “Anything that creates debris will increase the risk.”
The sheer number of objects in Earth’s orbit could already have a castle-like effect – a risk that Rocket Lab CEO Peter Beck described last week.
“This has a big impact on the launch side,” he told CNN Business, adding that the Rockets would have to “try to make their own way in between.” [satellite] Constellation. “
This article was originally published by Business Insider.
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