Russian rocket disintegrated in Earth’s orbit, leaving behind 65 pieces of dangerous space debris that could damage other satellites
- The top story of a Russian rocket crashed over the Indian Ocean on May 8
- The rocket was used to launch the Spektr-R radio telescope into orbit in 2011
- The Fregat-SB is a type of space tug and its upper deck has been divided into at least 65 parts
A Russian rocket used to launch a scientific satellite into space broke after nine years in orbit – leaving dozens of debris around the Earth.
The Fregat-SB is a type of space tug and its upper deck was left floating after helping to deliver the Spektr-R satellite in 2011, according to Roscosmos.
Spektr-R was a radio telescope launched by the Russian space agency, but it stopped responding to ground control last year and was declared dead in May 2019.
Roscosmos confirmed that the rocket failure occurred on May 8 between 6:00 a.m. and 7:00 a.m.BST somewhere over the Indian Ocean.
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About two-thirds of the satellites in orbit around the Earth are dead – about 3000 out of about 4500 objects – and pose a “ very great danger ” to the planet – this also includes parts of the Russian rocket that have disintegrated ( artist print)
The Russian space agency is studying the data to find out how many parts it has exploded and where they are currently orbiting the planet.
The US18 space control squadron that tracks all objects on Earth’s orbit says that there are at least 65 pieces of the rocket in orbit.
US18 wrote on Twitter: “ Confirmed that the FREGAT DEB burst occurred on May 8, 2020, between 0402 and 0551 UTC. Follow-up of 65 associated parts – no indication caused by a collision.
Space debris becomes a big problem for agencies and gets worse every time something new is put into orbit because there is always something left behind.
In this case, it was the upper stage of the rocket used to launch a space telescope.
Launcher parts are a major contributor to the space congestion problem, with the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics saying they contribute to space debris when they don’t have enough power to desorb.
There could be more than 128 million tiny fragments of debris in Earth orbit
- Rocket has launched since 1957: 5450
- Number of satellites in orbit: 8950
- Number still in space: 5000
- Number still working: 1950
- Number of debris objects: 22300
- Ruptures, explosions, etc .: 500
- Mass of objects in orbit: 8,400 tonnes
- Predicting the amount of debris in orbit using statistical models
- More than 10 cm: 34,000
- 1 cm to 10 cm: 900,000
- 1 mm to 1 cm: 128 million
Source: European Space Agency
Desorbitation would allow the parts of the rocket to fall back into the Earth’s atmosphere where they would burn and be destroyed before reaching the ground.
The rupture of space objects like the upper stage of the rocket is often caused by a collision with another object in orbit.
For example, when two large satellites collide, it produces hundreds of small fragments rather than a few large objects.
At the speed at which these fragments circle around the Earth, they pose a serious risk to satellites, spacecraft and even humans aboard the International Space Station.
NASA, the European Space Agency (ESA) and others are all investing money in researching new technologies to clear space debris.
ESA will spend nearly £ 350 million on security programs, including space cleaning, over the next five years.
One of ESA’s missions would be to use tentacle-like mechanical arms to kiss a dead satellite and get it out of orbit.
The European Space Agency is considering several different options for space debris removal technologies, including one that would capture and ship the debris, as this artist’s impression of an active debris removal satellite shows.
The agency is considering several different technologies to achieve its goal, including the use of a net, a harpoon and a satellite with a robotic arm attached.
In addition to the risk of a cascading problem of satellite crashes on other satellites and their debris that destroy even more space objects – debris also occupies more and more precious orbital goods.
This “space” is becoming more and more in demand every day, in part thanks to companies like SpaceX which are launching mega-constellations of satellites.
“Important space applications could be lost, such as weather forecasting, climate monitoring, Earth sciences and space communications,” ESA said of the risks associated with space debris.
Future space missions may be needed to include systems that deorb debris, but that doesn’t solve the problem for decades of space objects already in orbit – like the Russian top-flight rocket that has disintegrated .