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Russia: Progress freighter and SpaceX rocket/satellite to have near miss

According to a Russia news outlet, their just launched Progress freighter will have a near miss today prior to its docking with ISS with two SpaceX objects, a Falcon 9 upper stage and a decommissioned Starlink satellite.

The Progress spacecraft, which carries about 3,600 lbs. (1,633 kilograms) of cargo including food, fuel and other supplies to the orbital outpost, launched from Roscomos’ Baikonur cosmodrome in Kazakhstan at 7:27 p.m. EDT (2327 GMT) on Tuesday (June 29). Progress 78 will approach the two objects about three and a half hours before its docking at the International Space Station, which is scheduled for 9:02 p.m. EDT on July 1 (0102 July 2 GMT).

The close approach, which triggered a potential collision alert, was detected by the Roscosmos TsNIIMash Main Information and Analytical Center of the Automated System for Warning of Hazardous Situations in Near-Earth Space (ASPOS OKP), Roscosmos said in the statement issued on the space agency’s website Wednesday (June 30) at 7:47 a.m. EDT (1147 GMT).

Based on preliminary calculations, the Starlink 1691 satellite will be just 0.9 miles (1.5 kilometers) away from Progress 78 on Thursday (July 1) at 5:32 p.m. EDT (2132 GMT). Three minutes later, a fragment of a Falcon 9 rocket booster left in orbit in 2020 is expected to approach the spaceship within 0.3 miles (500 meters).

Based on that timetable, the near miss has already occurred. No word yet on whether there were any issues.

What is interesting is that Russia should have known this prior to launch. It is routine procedure to consider known orbital objects in scheduling liftoffs. Either they knew and decided to purposely fly this close for political reasons (it allows them to slam SpaceX while also touting the dangers of space junk) or had not done their due diligence before launch.

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One comment

  • Edward

    Robert wrote: “What is interesting is that Russia should have known this prior to launch. It is routine procedure to consider known orbital objects in scheduling liftoffs. Either they knew and decided to purposely fly this close for political reasons (it allows them to slam SpaceX while also touting the dangers of space junk) or had not done their due diligence before launch.

    Not just prior to launch but prior to docking with the ISS. If they actually thought this was a problem worth noting, then they would have merely changed the date or time of the docking in order to avoid the conflict.

    From the Space.com article:

    “There’s a lot more stuff in that ‘just below the ISS’ altitude regime than there used to be thanks to Starlink,” McDowell said, adding he could not independently confirm the close approach

    It sounds to me as though someone is complaining that low Earth orbit is being used by more than just the ISS.

    Starlink 1691, which launched in September 2020, was lowered out of the operational orbit at 340 miles (550 km) in April, McDowell said, and is apparently on its way to Earth’s atmosphere to burn up.

    Since the complaint is that the “offending” satellite is being deorbited in order to prevent it from becoming space debris, I suspect that they are not complaining about debris in orbit. To do so does not make sense.

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