General, Research, Technology

A collision of two satellites may occur this week. What will be the consequences?

In the orbit of our planet today is morethousands of artificial satellites, most of which have long been out of order and are considered space debris. They can no longer be controlled from earth stations, so they always run the risk of colliding with each other. So, in early 2019, the U.S. Air Force reported a risk of a collision between two large spacecraft, but this was avoided. However, this time the space collision tracking service LeoLabs told about a possible collision. Its representatives believe that the accident can happen on January 29 and it can have very undesirable consequences. Can one of the satellites possibly fall to Earth?

IRAS Space Telescope

According to the science publication Science Alert, insoon in the orbit of our planet, a collision of the IRAS space telescope launched in 1983 and the GGSE-4 satellite launched in 1967 may occur. According to experts from LeoLabs, at the end of January, devices located at an altitude of 900 kilometers will fly past each other at a distance of about 15-30 meters. Since they have been turned off and not used for a long time, no one will be able to change their path.

Blue lines show the flight paths of the IRAS and GGSE-4

Consequences of a satellite collision

Researchers know that the space telescopeIRAS has a rather large body and during launch weighed 1,083 kilograms. The GGSE-4 satellite, in turn, is a tiny device weighing no more than 4.5 kilograms. They move at a speed of about 14.7 kilometers per second, so when they collide, many fragments can form. It is noteworthy that most of them will belong to the small GGSE-4 satellite and there will be practically nothing left of it, but the IRAS telescope is unlikely to receive severe damage.

See also: 10 spectacular collisions of satellites

Worry that the components of the apparatusit’s definitely not worth falling on our heads. The fact is that the particles of the satellite when they get into the atmosphere of our planet will instantly burn out and the probability that they will survive is negligible. But then, why was LeoLabs so worried about a possible collision if people were not in danger?

What is the danger of space debris?

And the thing is that the remnants of the satellite are notburnt in the atmosphere will remain in the orbit of our planet. They will become part of the already huge cloud of space debris, which poses a danger to all currently operating vehicles. After all, we cannot control them, and at any moment they can hit the communications satellites and even telescopes that are necessary for us, which constantly collect data on distant planets.

The Earth surrounded by space debris looks something like this

Moreover, since in the orbit of our planet is fullboth working and failed vehicles, scientists are not always free to examine space objects. Already, space exploration can be compared to looking at the world through foggy glasses that prevent you from enjoying all the existing beauties.

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According to space archaeologist Alice Gorman,if in the decade that has begun, mankind does not come up with an effective method of collecting space debris, big problems will arise with the launch of new vehicles and the study of space. Fortunately, workable devices for cleaning the near-Earth space already exist. For example, in 2019, the British RemoveDEBRIS probe first captured space debris flying around our planet, and did so in real conditions. You can read more about it in our special material.