- Overnight, an abandoned Chinese rocket station and a Soviet-era satellite almost collided on the earth.
- The collision will generate a large amount of new space debris and make our current space junk problem worse.
- As we continue to launch more and more satellites, the possibility of space junk affecting manned missions is increasing.
If you haven’t heard of it: Space junk is becoming a real problem. There is too much man-made garbage scattered in the earth’s orbit, which actually poses a threat to future space missions and even ongoing plans such as the International Space Station. No, as companies like SpaceX plan to regularly launch thousands of satellites, the situation will only get worse.
On Thursday night, the seriousness of our space junk problem became very obvious. It seemed that an old rocket phase of the Chinese mission was about to collide with a dead Soviet satellite. The scientists who monitored the two objects calculated the numbers and determined that the probability of collision of the objects was more than 1
I know what you are thinking: “Well, so an old Soviet satellite almost hit a Chinese rocket. So what?”
It is true that the debris has no effect or even importance on the debris in operation, but the collision can still be catastrophic. You will see that when man-made objects collide in space at high speed, they produce more debris. This means that two large objects become dozens, hundreds or even thousands of smaller but still dangerous objects, which continue to orbit the earth.
We are monitoring a very high-risk conjunction between two large failed objects in LEO. Multiple data points show that the miss distance is <25m, and the Pc is between 1% and 20%. The total mass of the two objects is about 2800kg.
Object 1: 19826
Subject 2: 36123
TCA: October 16th 00:56UTC
Event altitude: 991 kilometers pic.twitter.com/6yWDx7bziw
— LeoLabs, Inc. (@LeoLabs_Space) October 13, 2020
Even these smaller objects can cause serious problems for space flight, because high-speed moving bolts and the like can cause incredible damage if they hit important cosmic machinery. If heaven bans it, a manned space shuttle crashes into or is hit by small, fast-moving metal fragments when entering a space station or the moon, the result could be catastrophic.
Most importantly, the smaller the object, the more difficult it is to track it from the earth. Of course, having two large objects is a problem, but a thousand smaller objects moving in new directions at different speeds can cause disaster.
Of course, the good news is that the satellite and rocket stages did not collide with each other. However, the risk of such incidents will not disappear soon. Several countries have proposed ways to clean up the Earth’s orbit and remove larger space junk, but so far, little progress has been made.