A ‘worst-case scenario’ was thwarted on Friday when two large pieces of space junk narrowly missed each other, according to LeoLabs.
LeoLabs said the debris included the defunct Cosmos 2361 satellite and an SL-8 rocket body, which are two of the countless pieces of space junk currently in low Earth orbit.
WHY A SPACESHIP CLAW WAS BUILT TO CLEAN UP SPACE WASTE
According to NASA, Low Earth Orbit (or LEO) objects involve objects orbiting our planet at an altitude of 1,200 miles (2,000 km) or less.
On Friday, Cosmos 2381 and the body of the SL-8 rocket nearly collided at an altitude of about 611 miles (984 km).
LeoLabs determined that the two pieces of space junk missed each other by about 20 feet (6 meters), with a margin of error of only a few tens of meters.
SPACE DEBRIS KEEPS SPACE STATION AWAY, DELAYING NASA ASTRONAUT IN SPACE
“We have identified this type of collision – between two massive abandoned objects – as a ‘worst-case scenario’ because it is largely beyond our control and would likely result in a ripple effect of dangerous collisions,” LeoLabs said in a statement. Tweeter.
They said that if the Cosmos 2381 and SL-8 rocket bodies had crashed into each other, the collision would have resulted in the formation of thousands of new debris fragments that would remain for decades.
This near collision is significant because it illustrates the amount of space junk floating around in low Earth orbit.
According to LeoLabs, a layer of the LEO about 62 miles thick contains about 160 SL-8 rocket bodies, along with their 160 payloads, which were deployed more than 20 years ago.
WHY SPACE WASTE WILL CONTINUE TO BE A PROBLEM IN LOW ORBIT
This “bad neighborhood” in LEO, LeoLabs said, is located between altitudes of 950 and 1050 km and continues to be a hotspot for debris collisions.
These collisions and near-misses in LEO remain a major concern for many.
Because in addition to being populated with missing space junk, the LEO region is also considered an area close enough to Earth to facilitate transportation, communication, observation and resupply, according to NASA.
WATCH FOR THESE ASTRONOMIC EVENTS IN FEBRUARY
In fact, LEO is where the International Space Station currently orbits and where many proposed future platforms will be located.