According to the website Science Space.com, the breakup of the Kosmos-2143 (or Kosmos-2145) spacecraft due to the collision was announced on August 30 by astrophysicist and space debris expert Jonathan McDowell on Twitter.
The Kosmos-2143 spacecraft was launched in 1991 on a Soviet rocket. Researchers don’t know and may never know what caused it to break into pieces.
But the incident highlights the precarious situation in Earth’s orbit – where space debris accumulated during more than 60 years of space exploration now poses a threat to new satellites. Still active.
According to the European Space Agency (ESA), there are approximately 34,550 such objects currently orbiting Earth.
According to ESA estimates, there are about 1 million pieces of debris ranging in size from 1 to 10 cm and 130 million pieces smaller than 1 cm floating in space.
Meanwhile, radar on Earth can only track objects larger than 10 cm.
When the radar registers one of the large objects approaching the active satellite or spacecraft, the operator will receive a warning and can move his satellite/spacecraft out of danger. Dangerous. But no warning is given before small pieces of garbage appear.
The problem is that even a piece of space junk as small as 1 cm can cause serious damage.
In 2016, a piece of space debris a few millimeters wide tore a 40 cm-wide hole in one of the solar panels of Europe’s Sentinel 2 Earth observation satellite. The collision created debris large enough to be tracked from Earth.
Sentinel 2 survived the incident, but ESA engineers said that if space debris had hit the main body of the spacecraft, the mission could have ended.
For years, researchers have warned about the increasing amount of space junk in Earth’s orbit.
Some fear that the situation is slowly moving towards a scenario called “Kessler syndrome”, named after retired NASA physicist Donald Kessler.
The “Kessler syndrome” scenario predicts that increasing amounts of debris from orbital collisions will eventually render the region around Earth unusable. Since each collision causes countless space debris and so on exponentially more, there will be countless subsequent collision chains.