Ever since the first launch, many satellites have been sent to space. Some are functional, while others are not, probably because they finished their mission or failed altogether. With each one carrying out its mission, it is rare to think of their co-existence all together. A good example is both satellite Kosmos 2004 and rocket CZ-4C.
Kosmos 2004 is a navigation satellite that the Soviet Union launched back in 1989. On the other hand, CZ-4C was launched by China in 2009 as a military reconnaissance satellite, which was two decades later. Surprisingly, two objects launched by different states for different missions at a different time have a possibility of colliding. Initially, the only thing they had in common was the military missions. Little did the launchers think that their destinies would intersect at any one point. LeoLabs Inc. announced the possible yet dangerous collision on October 13. The Silicon Valley Company concluded the possibility of using its ground-based radars. Its radars are powerful enough to track and identify objects in the Earth’s low orbit regardless of their sizes.
Through Twitter, LeoLabs Inc. said that the satellite’s probability and the rocket’s stage colliding ranges between 1% and 20%. The next day, it revised its number to above 10%. The collision would result in a lot of potential collision energy. Given that the two’s mass is around 2,800 kg and the pair has a relative speed of 14.7 km/s, one cannot underestimate the contact’s impact.
Some will argue why it should be a course of alarm. After all, the small debris will burn as soon as they reenter the atmosphere, and the collision wouldn’t affect anything on Earth. The concern is how long it will take for the debris to burn after reentering Earth’s atmosphere. Some take quite a long time to suffer that fate. An Australian space archaeologist Alice Gorman termed it as a collision that hasn’t been witnessed in a while
Given the collision, the number of small pieces would be high enough to increase space debris percentage by a considerable rate. Upon being released into space, they will be moving at a relatively high speed due to the high potential energy. Under such circumstances, one can only compare them to bullets if they ever contact space-walking astronauts and satellites.
That’s not the climax is this ordeal. With an increase in space debris, the Kessler syndrome could become a reality. According to Donald Kessler and Burton Cour-Palais, NASA scientists, it is a situation whereby one collision could lead to more collisions. Consequently, the amount of debris would increase even further. Eventually, a portion of the Earth’s orbit would become useless. As much as it goes way back to the 1970s when it was based on a forecast, almost half a century later, it is something that can happen for real.