A collision between a Russian spy satellite and a NASA spacecraft has been averted

Satellites flying in opposite orbits are at risk of a head-on collision, with a relative speed of about 15 kilometers per second.
Collisions between unattended devices are rare, but are likely to become more frequent as Earth's orbit becomes more crowded.

It has become a nightmare for space agencies. On February 28, overhead, two satellites nearly collided. The two spacecraft, which were in orbit at an altitude of about 600 kilometers, crossed their paths by only a few tens of metres, narrowly avoiding a buildup that could have created thousands of debris. The Russian satellite Cosmos 2221, available for hours of service, and the timed American scientific satellite, also non-manufacturable, are available to all of us in opposable orbits and are connected to the front percutor, with a relative view from 15 km away. the second.

The US Department of Defense is monitoring a possible collision“, pointed out A I reported From NASA before the meeting. But at the appointed time, this Thursday at 7:34 am (Paris time), no flash of light was observed in the eyes of the telescopes. second I reported NASA immediately confirmed that the two vehicles crossed paths safely. “The two unmaneuverable satellites will approach each other again, but this is their closest pass in current orbit determination predictions, as they gradually move away from each other in altitude.“, specified the agency.

The two machines crossed paths less than 20 meters apart

NASA did not indicate how close the encounter was, but satellite monitoring company LeoLabs told our colleagues on site Space.com website The two satellitesThey missed each other by less than 20 metres“Suffice it to say they're getting close. This kind of collision between satellites that no one has control over is becoming rarer. But they risk becoming more frequent, as Earth's orbit becomes more and more crowded. According to L'European Space Agency (ESA), There are about 11,500 satellites orbiting the Earth today, but only 9,000 of them are still operational.

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In addition, there are about 36,500 pieces of debris at least 10 centimeters across and 130 million that are one millimeter in diameter, orbiting our planet. Even at this size, this debris can cause significant damage due to the speed at which objects move in Earth's orbit. In January 2020, the European Space Agency announced that it had diverted a satellite off course to avoid a possible collision with a SpaceX spacecraft. A spokesman for the American company indicated that a “glitch” affected the communications system that prevented it from being properly informed of the danger.

Matthieu Delacharlieri

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