The orbital space is filled with satellites and they can damage the ISS.
But this is just the beginning.
On Monday, Russia destroyed one of its inoperative orbital satellites, creating more than 1,500 pieces of supersonic space debris that posed a serious threat to scientists and astronauts aboard the International Space Station. Since then, NASA made a statement on the satellite incident (ASAT), confirming that all crew members were unharmed.
But to fully understand the scale of this incident, we must face the facts: s about 7,500 satellites in orbit from September 2021, nearly 1,500 of which launched this year, we will probably see an event like this again. Especially as tensions rise between the United States and its allies, on the one hand, and China and Russia, on the other, the tactics of space warfare will not stop soon.
Modern satellites use propellants that detonate on impact
It may seem illogical to imagine small fragments of orbital satellites posing a serious threat to the relatively giant International Space Station (ISS). After all, if all affected objects are moving at similar relative speeds to maintain orbit, how can the satellite debris reaches a sufficient relative speed to break through the walls of the ISS? The answer lies in engineering: most modern electric propulsion satellites have Hall-effect thrusters that use high-pressure fuel tanks. And when they are pierced by a high-speed object (like a Russian missile), they explode, firing thousands of fragments in each direction.
“Satellites using Hall-driven thrusters, the most common form of electric propulsion system used today, are inherently risky because they use high-pressure fuel tanks that, if burst, would cause a devastating explosion, filling the orbital plane with dangerous debris, “they said. CEO Peter Kant of Accion Systems in an email to IE. Among other things, this means that each individual ASAT test has the potential to create a new batch of deadly space debris, as it would effectively blow up any directional satellite equipped with high-pressure fuel, such as a “space bomb.”
Space war tactics are likely to create more debris incidents
“Space debris can then collide with other spacecraft to generate exponentially more space debris in a cascading chain reaction known as Kessler’s syndrome,” Kant added in an email to IE. We’ve seen chain reactions like the one on the silver screen in Gravity, where a lone astronaut survives not only after the destruction of a space station, but also after a torturous long spacewalk to the crew’s Chinese capsule. But while a survival story as the film’s protagonist is compelling, it’s also unlikely to succeed in reality. Fortunately this time there was no Kessler syndromeand the ISS has not suffered significant damage from the Russian ASAT test. But the danger to orbital space operations is compounded by the huge number of fuel-filled satellites. “Imagine 3,700 small bombs flying in space, and extrapolate that to 7,000 next year,” Kant told IE. “Then the big constellations can contain up to 30,000 units. These are very small bombs flying around in space.”
And we are still working to understand how fast-moving satellite debris behaves in space. Professor Andrew Higens of Mechanical Engineering at McGill University published a study in 2017 which describes in detail his work to develop the “fastest pistol in the world”, according to tweet. In the study, Higgins worked to broaden our understanding of how hypersonic debris can travel faster than 6.2 miles per second (10 km / s). That’s more than 20,000 mph (almost 36,000 km / h)! And to make matters worse, a company was launched that generates space tracking information for private and government employees. video reproduction of space warfare tactics executed by both China and the United States in October. This increases the threat of “3,700 small bombs in space”, as with space forces fighting for orbital supremacy, further tests (or a real military space battle) could cause a global catastrophe, potentially forcing the early abandonment of the ISS and periodic low level transformation. -Earth orbit in a space shooting range.