Collision highlights space debris problem
The 30-year-old Soviet satellite Kosmos disintegrated in orbit about 1,400 kilometers above the Earth. The incident was reported by an employee of the NASA Chandra observatory Jonathan McDowell, an astrophysicist and an expert on space debris.
Jonathan McDowell spoke about this on his page on the social network X (formerly known as Twitter). McDowell spotted seven debris he believed belonged to either Cosmos 2143 or Cosmos 2145, two of the eight Strela satellites launched on the same rocket in 1991.
An old Soviet satellite fell apart in orbit due to a collision with space debris
It is noted that this event highlights the dangerous situation in Earth’s orbit. Old objects, accumulated over 60 years of exploration and use of space, now pose a threat to new, still functioning satellites.
McDowell also stressed that the exact reason for the collapse of the Cosmos will remain a mystery. The fact is that ground-based radars track only objects larger than 10 centimeters. According to the European Space Agency (ESA), there are currently about 34,550 such objects in Earth’s orbit. However, ESA estimates that in addition to these “visible” pieces of space debris, there are about 1 million pieces of debris “flying” in space ranging in size from 1 to 10 cm and 130 million fragments smaller than 1 cm.
When radar detects one of the larger objects approaching a live satellite, operators are alerted and can steer their spacecraft to safety. But there are no warnings about smaller debris. However, even a particle smaller than 1 cm can cause serious damage.