'Very high risk' defunct Russian satellite and Chinese rocket body will collide

Rodiano Bonacci
Ottobre 16, 2020

Space Junk: How Much Is There?

"If this turns into a collision, it's probably thousands to tens of thousands of new pieces of debris that is going to cause a headache for any satellite that's going out into upper low-Earth orbit, or even beyond", said Dan Ceperley, the CEO of LeoLabs, according to Business Insider.

While there is over 2,600 active satellites now orbiting Earth, there are also 3,000 dead ones out there. As per a Daily Mail report, the risk of the discarded satellite and rocket colliding is "very high" and it can happen sometime in the evening of October 15. And because of the altitude of about 1,000 kilometres, this stuff isn't going to reenter within a matter of weeks or months.

But any impact would likely be felt over time, rather than immediately, as the debris spread out over a period of weeks to form a "belt of debris" almost 1000km above the Earth. Space agencies are starting to incorporate end-of-mission planning such as defuelling in orbit to minimize the risk of explosions in orbit caused by leftover fuel and batteries, which are the biggest generators of space debris.

This is not the first close encounter of the year. In January, a decommissioned space telescope and an American test payload passed 47 meters from each other.

However, an updated forecast on Friday was more reassuring, suggesting they were highly likely to miss each other by at least seven metres when they cross paths 991km above the Antarctic coast at 1.56pm. [Kosmos 2004] Which launched in 1989 and a Chinese rocket stage.

Scientists have anxious since 1978 of a so-called "Kessler Syndrome" collision in space that could trigger a chain reaction taking down working satellites. Eventually, a feedback loop could make near-Earth space inaccessible.

Experts have previously described space debris as a growing concern, as scientists have warned that it may make the atmosphere impenetrable. The Kessler Syndrome proves its fears to be accurate as the effects would be massive, leaving behind a handful of debris.

The objects are expected to pass - or collide - at around 9 p.m. EST.

The company continues to monitor the situation. And we should all keep our fingers crossed for a near miss; a smashup would likely result in a "significant (10 to 20 percent) increase in the LEO debris environment", McDowell said in another tweet.

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