For a while this week, it looks like there could be an impact in orbit around the earth between two pieces of space junk that might cause harm to other satellites. Two pieces of space junk included a defunct Soviet satellite and a discarded Chinese booster rocket. The two were heading towards each other on Thursday night and narrowly missed colliding.
A company called LeoLabs, a private space-tracking company, uses ground-based radar to track space objects and had predicted the chance for a collision at 10 percent or higher. The company’s CEO said while there was a high chance of collision, the situation wasn’t uncommon. The US military had predicted nearly a zero percent chance of the objects colliding.
The military made its estimates based on data from the largest radar and telescope network in the world. A scientist from the University of Texas at Austin, Moriba Jah, has been trying to raise public awareness about the sheer abundance of space junk orbiting the planet. He says that there is a constant risk of collision, and this latest ordeal was the newest evidence of the need for an international effort for tracking space junk.
Jah says that his data shows there are dozens of potential collisions happening at any given moment. He also said that the defunct satellite and rocket booster was expected to come within 72 meters of each other. However, he was also unable to determine if the objects would collide or not until the event passed.
The LeoLabs CEO said his company wanted to raise public awareness about the event because the two objects were large and were in a relatively clean orbit compared to those nearby. The company also wants to raise general awareness about the space debris problem to encourage the private sector to clean it up. He said multiple times per week satellites come within 100 meters of each other.