Two Space Objects Are on Track for a Possible Collision, Experts Say

Tonight, two large masses of space debris could collide and fill Earth's low orbit with scrap.

LeoLabs had said a defunct Russian satellite and a discarded Chinese rocket segment were likely to come within 25m of each other.

"We're not yet at that Kessler Syndrome point".

The concern over an increase in large collisions relates to the potential of triggering the Kessler Syndrome, where access to space becomes increasingly hard as more and more junk clutters orbit. The International Space Station has had to maneuver itself away from potential collisions three times in 2020 alone, for example.

A "useful" orbit about 750km above the Earth had already had to be vacated because of a Chinese anti-satellite weapons test in 2007 and a somewhat smaller satellite collision in 2009 that had created a big volume of debris, he said.

The "runaway chain reaction" of collisions would not end if space junk will continue to pile up, and humans would not do something to clean it up.

While there is no risk of harming anyone on Earth, if debris collides, it could be the start of a feedback loop of growing orbital litter that will make space travel more hard.

This is good news because with a combined mass of about 6,000 pounds and a speed of about 33,000 miles an hour, such a collision could potentially cause even more debris that would stay in space for a very long time. Space agencies around the world also monitor these pieces.

On average over the last two decades, 12 accidental fragmentations have occurred in space every year - "and this trend is unfortunately increasing", the agency said.

The clash, even grazing each other, would be catastrophic and add more clutters in space. They tweeted on Tuesday to warn about the possibility of the collision, putting the likelihood anywhere between one and 20 per cent - which they say is dangerously high. LeoLabs estimates that a direct collision would bring a significant amount of pollution to the present 170 million orbiting the planet.

"We're not yet in a position where we can actively remove any debris like this", said Gorman.

And, though it doesn't pose much of a risk to humans on the ground, it does threaten hoards of active satellites that provide all sorts of services, including tracking the weather, studying the Earth's climate, and providing telecom services. Debris threats the very existence of the spacecraft, and in the future, the worsening case of the Kessler Syndrome would hinder space travel due to the clutter that blocks the cosmic skies.

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