- An abandoned Chinese rocket stage and a Soviet-era satellite almost collided on Earth overnight.
- The collision created a large amount of new space debris and made our existing space debris problem worse.
- As we continue to launch more and more satellites, space junk is more likely to affect affected missions.
If you haven’t heard before: Space junk is becoming a real problem. Throwing too much stressful garbage around the Earth’s bit rabbit is actually posing a threat to future space missions and even ongoing programs like the International Space Station. This is bad, and with companies like SpaceX planning to launch thousands more satellites on a regular basis, it’s just getting worse.
On Thursday night, the seriousness of our space junk problem Became clear When it looked like the old rocket phase of a Chinese mission, it was about to collide with an already dead Soviet satellite. Scientists monitored both objects, eliminating the number and determined that there was a 10% chance that the objects would collide, which is quite high and certainly noticeable. Thankfully, the two large pieces of space debris missed each other, but that doesn’t mean we can go back to ignoring our space debris.
I know what you’re thinking: “Okay, so an old, dead Soviet satellite landed on a piece of Chinese rocket. so what?”
While it is true that none of the wreckage was functional or critical for ongoing work, a collision can be devastating. You see, when arbitrary objects in space run fast against each other, they create more debris as a result. This means that two large objects become dozens, hundreds or even thousands of small, but still dangerous objects that continue to orbit the earth.
We are monitoring a very high risk combination between two big things in LEO. Multiple data points show miss distances <25 meters and PCs between 1% and 20%. The sum of the two items is ~ 2,800 kg.
Object 1: 19826
Object 2: 36123
TCA: Oct 16 00: 56UTC
Event height: 991 km pic.twitter.com/6yWDx7bziw
– LeoLabs, Inc. (@ Leo Labs Space) October 13, 2020
Even these small objects can cause serious problems for space missions, as something as small as a high-speed bolt can cause incredible damage if it affects a significant piece of space machinery. If heaven forbids, a manger spacecraft is ignited or killed by a small, fast-moving piece of metal as it reaches the space station or the moon, with disastrous consequences.
On top of that, the smaller the unit, the harder it is to track down from the ground. Two large objects are a problem, of course, but a thousand small objects can spell destruction moving at different speeds and in new directions.
The good news, of course, is that the satellite and rocket phases could not collide. However, the risk of such incidents does not go away anytime soon. Many countries have proposed proposed ways to clean up the Earth’s crust and remove large pieces of space debris, but so far, little progress has been made.