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China’s rocket accelerator and dead Soviet satellite are one of the courses of a collision in space

If that happens, the collision could result in thousands of pieces of space debris, at most after an active communications satellite operated by Iridium and a dead Russian satellite crashed into each other in 2009 about 500 miles above Siberia.

In addition to several thousand operational satellites, there is a lot of garbage in space – spent satellites and old rocket accelerators, the fleet of previous collisions and military maneuvers, such as when China shot down a dead satellite with a rocket in 2003.

The more rubbish in space, the greater the possibility of additional collisions, which in turn would lead to even more debris, further exacerbating a problem that is getting worse.

“Every week we see close approaches where abandoned satellites, rocket bodies, pass at a distance of 1

00 meters from each other,” said Daniel Chaperley, founder and CEO of LeoLabs. “It’s not like it happens once a year. This happens several times a week. It’s like a ticking time bomb that’s right there in space. “

He said the chance of a collision was less than 10 percent, but added that “this is extremely high for the space industry.” For every 10,000 satellite operators, they will move their satellite. For every one in 1,000, this is considered an emergency. He said the company would find out within “a few hours” whether there was a collision or not. He said the likelihood of a collision could change as objects approached and the company collected more data.

So far this year, the International Space Station has had to maneuver three times to avoid debris, NASA said. Speaking at a recent Senate Commerce Committee hearing, NASA Administrator Jim Braidstein complained about the growing problem and said that in addition to the time the station had to maneuver, “there are three potential [collisions] this made us very nervous. ”

The challenge, he said, is “as a nation or even as a world, we don’t have a stable architecture for how to integrate all these possibilities into this small space. And it is becoming a growing problem. “

The worries come as companies such as SpaceX and Amazon race to launch thousands of satellites into low Earth orbit to transmit the Internet to rural and underserved communities. Over 50,000 satellites could be launched in the next 10 years, according to Analytical Graphics Inc., a company based outside of Philadelphia that also tracks spacecraft and debris. The Pentagon is tracking about 22,000 pieces of debris larger than about 4 inches, but scientists say there are nearly 1 million larger than half an inch. With all the debris floating in orbit, AGI estimates there could be up to 404 collisions and 17 million close conversations in the busiest orbits over the next decade.

This has prompted a civil agency, namely the Ministry of Commerce, in some neighborhoods, including the White House, to take over the work of tracking debris and issuing warnings. But these efforts are moving slowly, while some in Congress prefer the Federal Aviation Administration instead.

In the meantime, the problem does not go away.

The two sites, which rush to each other on Thursday night, are quite large – the total mass is more than 6,000 pounds, according to LeoLabs. On any trip around 17,000 mph, the collision can be catastrophic and no one can do to repel them.

“None of the sites can be maneuvered, so there is nothing to do but monitor,” said Todd Harrison, director of the aerospace security project at the Center for Strategic and International Studies. “At a height above [600 miles], the debris will remain for many decades. “

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