Dead Russian Satellite and Discarded Chinese Rocket Narrowly Avoid Collision by Just 36 Feet – an Impact That Could Have Sent Thousands of Pieces of Space Junk Into Orbit

The image shows predictions from early in the day on Thursday, but more than six hours later the rocket and satellite did not collide in orbit.  LeoLabs is set to release more details about the risk assessment in the upcoming days
The image shows predictions from early in the day on Thursday, but more than six hours later the rocket and satellite did not collide in orbit. LeoLabs is set to release more details about the risk assessment in the upcoming days

There is no indication of an out-of-commission Russian satellite and a discarded Chinese rocket colliding in orbit.

LeoLabs, a firm that tracks space debris, identified the two craft this week, which had just a 10 percent chance of smashing into each other.

Russian Kosmos-2004 was seen moving towards the southern poles and the Chinese Change Zheng 4C headed north over the Falklands – both moving at 32,882 miles per hour.

However, the Chinese Chang Zheng rocket passed over LeoLans Kiwi Space Radar 10 minutes after the pair’s closest approach, which occurred at around 8:56pm ET.

LeoLabs has been tracking the objects used its radar arrays and the latest data suggests they missed each other by 36 feet.

The objects have a combined mass of 2.8 metric tons, and the impact would add thousands of pieces of space junk – anywhere from 10 percent to 20 percent more debris – to the 170 million currently floating in orbit.

LeoLabs shared in a recent tweet: ‘Our latest data confirms Cosmos 2004 is still intact. Our final risk assessment showed a computed miss distance of 11 meters (+16 / -11 meters at 1-sigma uncertainty).’

Although there is no threat to people on Earth, the man-made materials posed a significant risk to functioning satellites in orbit.

LeoLabs also shared that it will release more details about the risk assessment in the upcoming days.

The group announced there was no indication of collision Thursday at 9:51pm ET in a tweet saying: ‘CZ-4C R/B passed over LeoLabs Kiwi Space Radar 10 minutes after TCA. Our data shows only a single object as we’d hoped, with no signs of debris.’

People from around the world were waiting on the edge of their seats for the news of whether or not the satellite and rocket had ‘kissed’ in orbit.

Daniel Ceperley, LeoLabs’ founder and CEO, told The Washington Post: ‘Every week we see close approaches, where derelict satellites, rocket bodies, are passing within 100 meters of each other.’

‘This isn’t like this happens once a year. This happens multiple times a week. It’s sort of a ticking time bomb that’s just out there in space.’

Shortly after LeoLabs made the announcement on Twitter, many users flocked to the social media site to share their excitement of the missed ‘catastrophic’ event.

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Source: Daily Mail