The first space “accident”: a collision of satellites over Taimyr

Above the Taimyr Peninsula at an altitude of 788.6 kilometers on February 10, 2009, the first ever collision of artificial satellites was recorded in the Earth’s orbit. These were the inactive communications satellite Kosmos-2251, which had remained in space without control since 1995, and the American Iridium 33, launched by a commercial company. They collided almost at right angles with a speed of 11,700 m / s.

As a result of the space “accident” not a single one survived: several thousand debris was formed, space debris, some debris not less than 10 cm in diameter, there are smaller ones. But even they can be dangerous, especially for the International Space Station (ISS). According to NASA experts, the debris from the collision can continue to rotate around the earth for 20 or 30 years, and some for more than 100 years. In 2012, one of the debris passed the ISS at a distance of 120 m.

Illustrations: 1 – illustration of the orbit of the orbit for the satellites “Cosmos-2251” and “Iridium 33” before the collision, 2 – illustration of space debris 20 minutes after the collision, 3 – 50 minutes after the collision. Source: Wikipedia

The 2009 incident launched an increased focus on preventing future collisions. But there is a problem: as of 2021, at all heights of near-Earth space, there are about 900 thousand objects with a size of 1-10 cm, more than 10 cm – 34 thousand, and more than 130 million of the smallest , up to 1 cm. It is almost impossible to detect, track each of them, in addition, their collision with each other generates even more debris. The areas around the earth that are most often used for the operation of spacecraft are most congested, ie the orbit near the earth can potentially become unusable. After all, even a small grain of space debris that moves at high speed can cause great damage to the objects used there.

How to deal with space debris is still a debatable issue. To some extent legal, economic, environmental, related to national and global security. UN Secretary-General Boutros Boutros-Ghali noted in 1993 that there is no pollution of national terrestrial space, there is a pollution of the earth’s outer space, which affects all countries equally negatively. Now around the world continues the development of how to bring obsolete satellites into the “funeral orbit”, how to avoid dangerous collisions and, most importantly, how to recognize a threat in time.

The material has been prepared based on information from open sources.
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