Every year, more and more space debris is formed in near-earth orbit. Parts of rockets left after space launches and not burned up in the planet’s atmosphere, satellites out of order, and so on – all this is a potential threat to operating satellites and the orbital station. Collision of these objects with each other can also create a huge number of problems, including new garbage. A similar incident could have happened literally today.
Over the past few days, two near-Earth objects have become objects of observation by experts from world space agencies, as well as by space enthusiasts – the old non-working Soviet satellite “Cosmos-2004” and the stage of the Chinese CZ-4C R / B rocket. Both objects were classified as space debris.
According to calculations, their orbit intersects, while at the moment of closest approach, the distance between them may be less than 25 meters. Considering that the total weight of objects is more than 2,800 kilograms, and the speed of movement is 57,800 km / h, their collision could turn out to be very unpleasant consequences. All these days the observers held their breath and crossed their fingers.
This visualization shows our latest information on the event: pic.twitter.com/qaI2NXhZmi
– LeoLabs, Inc. (@LeoLabs_Space) October 15, 2020
The organization LeoLabs, which tracks space debris and space collisions in low Earth orbit, has been monitoring the convergence of two dangerous pieces of space debris all this time. Yesterday she published a visualization of the trajectory of the two segments, marking the probability of collision as “high”. Hour “X” was scheduled for October 16 at 3:56 Moscow time over Antarctica at an altitude of 991 kilometers.
Fortunately, the collision never happened. According to the latest data from LeoLabs, Cosmos 2004 is showing signs of no damage, indicating no collision. At the same time, calculations say that the objects passed at a distance of only 11 meters from each other.
Our latest data confirms Cosmos 2004 is still intact. Our final risk assessment showed a computed miss distance of 11 meters (+16 / -11 meters at 1-sigma uncertainty).
More to come next week as we will share a more detailed risk analysis of this event. pic.twitter.com/iTWXyLANrm
– LeoLabs, Inc. (@LeoLabs_Space) October 16, 2020
With companies such as SpaceX and Amazon going to put tens of thousands of their own satellites into orbit in the future, the chances of collisions between failed units will increase significantly. By the way, about 3% of the 778 SpaceX Starlink Internet satellites in orbit, according to the latest data, have already failed for one reason or another.
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