Tonight (October 15th), Earth’s orbits can be more crowded and more dangerous.
Two big parts Space debris According to California-based tracking firm Leo Labs, we are zooming towards the approach that occurs Thursday at 8:56 pm EDT (Greenwich Mean Time 0056, October 16).
The encounter occurs off the coast of Antarctica, 616 miles (991 kilometers) in the South Atlantic Ocean. LeoLabs’ latest calculations show the probability of collision More than 10 — Very high, considering that the total mass of the object is about 6,170 pounds. (2,800 kilograms) And they barrel towards each other at a relatively high speed of 32,900 mph (52,950 km / h).
Relation: Space Debris Description: Orbital Debris Threat (Infographic)
2 / Current risk metric from the latest CDM: Miss distance: 12 meters (+ 18 / -12 meters) Collision probability:> 10%, scaled considering large object size Relative velocity: 14.7 km / s pic. twitter.com / y44QXyhHJKOctober 14, 2020
“This event remains very risky and can continue during its closest approach.” Leo Labs tweeted today (October 14th).
Also on Twitter is Jonathan McDowell, an astronomer and satellite tracker based at the Harvard Smithsonian Astrophysical Center. Identified two objects As an obsolete Soviet navigation satellite called Parus (or Kosmos 2004) and a Chinese rocket stage.
A “search mode scan” scheduled shortly after the approach should reveal whether the collision actually occurred. Leo Labs said in another tweet.. And we should all keep crossing our fingers for the hiyari hat. “The LEO debris environment will increase significantly (10 to 20 percent),” McDowell said. Another tweet.. (“LEO” is an abbreviation for “low earth orbit”.)
A superspreader event of such debris is not unprecedented. For example, in February 2009, the Iridium 33 communications satellite in operation collided with the non-functional Russian military satellite Kosmos 2251. 1,800 traceable debris By next October, many others are too small to detect.
Mankind also deliberately created a large cloud of debris twice — during the 2007 and 2019 anti-satellite weapons tests. China And India,Each.
Such an event and a potential collision on Thursday night highlight the heightened threat of orbital debris to space flight and exploration.The International Space Station had to Keep yourself away from potential conflicts For example, three times in 2020 alone. And as the costs of both launch and satellite development continue to fall, Earth’s orbit becomes increasingly congested, often using aircraft operated by relative newcomers.
Therefore, the space flight community needs to come up with guidelines to minimize debris. Many experts say.. Such guidelines may include the requirement to deorbit the used rocket body immediately after launch, so it cannot be involved in close encounters such as those occurring in the South Atlantic on Thursday night.
Mike Wall is the author of “Out There” (Grand Central Publishing, 2018, illustrated by Karl Tate), a book on exploring alien life. Follow him on Twitter @ michaeldwall. Follow us on Twitter @ Spacedotcom or Facebook.