Wednesday, May 1, 2013

My satellite collision prediction almost happened, last year

 As I have noted before, one of my 10 undangerous predictions for 2013 was the following:

10. A major satellite collision in space emphasizes the space debris problem.
-- The odds of this keep increasing every year!

Earlier this year, there was a report (since questioned) that a  Russian mini-sat might have been hit by debris.  (There's another post in May about the questioning of this event.)   So that's not a sure one.

But I read yesterday that the NASA Fermi telescope nearly got hit last year by a Russian satellite -- they had to perform an evasive maneuver with thrusters not intended to be used for that purpose to avoid it.

The Day NASA's Fermi dodged a massive bullet

And the article describes how close it could have been:

"Twice before, the Fermi team had been alerted to potential conjunctions, and on both occasions the threats evaporated. It was possible the Cosmos 1805 [defunct Russki Cold War satellite] encounter would vanish as well, and the spacecraft's observations could continue without interruption.

But the update on Friday, March 30, indicated otherwise. The satellites would occupy the same point in space within 30 milliseconds of each other."

So this event shows two things:  one, it is crowded up there, and two, the actual chances of a collision are reduced by tracking of satellites and debris and maneuvering when necessary to avoid a hit.

But there are still seven more months in 2013, and like I said, it's crowded up there.  I don't want it to happen, but one can't deny that it's possible, with increasing chances of such an event every day.

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