An old rocket fuselage and a military satellite — large pieces of space junk dating back to the Soviet Union — nearly collided with each other. Friday morning, in a semi-disruptive state that nearly knocked out thousands of pieces of debris.
LeoLabs, a private company that tracks abandoned satellites and objects in low Earth orbit, observer Near collision in radar data. The company, which can track objects as small as 3.9 inches (10 cm) in diameter, operates three radar stations, two in the US and one in New Zealand.
The two objects moved in front of each other at an altitude of 611 miles (984 kilometers) on the morning of Friday, January 27th. [20 feet] with a margin of error of a few tens of meters,” the company said in a statement tweet.
That’s incredibly close, Harvard astrophysicist Jonathan McDowell told Smithsonian V The drawing Posted on Twitter. The body of the SL-8 rocket (NORAD ID 16511), specifically its second stage, has been in space since 1986, while the military satellite launched Cosmos 2361 (NORAD ID 25590), known as Parus, into low Earth orbit in 1998. A collision between the two objects It generated thousands of new fragments of debris that would remain in Earth’s orbit for decades.
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conjunction event in orbitBad neighborhood“It lies between 590 and 652 miles (950 and 1,050 kilometers) above the surface, according to LeoLabs. This band has it.”Great potential for debris generationIn low Earth orbit “due to a combination of breakup events and abandoned objects,” the company explained in a series of tweets. The so-called bad neighborhood hosts About 160 SL-8 rocket objects have been launched along with approximately 160 payloads in decades. Leolabs Says About 1,400 engagements involving these rocket bodies have been dated between June and September 2022.
Leolabs Describe This type of potential collision between “two massive neglected objects” was described as a “worst-case scenario”, saying it would be “largely outside our control and likely to result in the ripple effect of serious collision encounters”. In fact, a collision on this scale would almost certainly precipitate the ongoing Kessler syndrome — the steady accumulation of space debris that threatens to make parts of Earth’s orbit inaccessible.
Related story: What do you know about Kessler syndrome, the ultimate space disaster
Near misses in space are becoming increasingly common, be that as it may Conjunctions between defunct satellites or Clouds of debris threatening the International Space Station. Avoidance maneuvers are now a fixture for satellite operators, with SpaceX, as a stark example, having to Performed more than 26,000 collision avoidance maneuvers for Starlink satellites From December 1, 2020 to November 30, 2022.
In addition to focusing on collision avoidance, LeoLabs recommend Execute debris mitigation and debris treatment efforts. This may take the form of reasonable guidelines relating to the removal of satellites once they are retired, as well Introduction of debris removal techniques.
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