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Russian anti-sat test creates 1500 more pieces of space junk

In what appears to be a test of Russia’s anti-satellite system dubbed Nudol, a defunct Russia satellite has been blasted into approximately 1,500 pieces by a missile launched from Russia.

Under normal circumstances, Kosmos 1408 would not have approached the International Space Station closely enough to pose a threat, however following the breakup, thousands of individual pieces of debris will have scattered into their own orbits. At least 1,500 pieces of debris from the satellite have already been identified by the United States Space Command. However, many smaller objects will have been generated, which will take much longer to identify. With high relative velocities, even a tiny fragment can cause significant damage should it collide with another spacecraft.

Owing to concerns about the debris cloud, the crew aboard the ISS were instructed to close hatches between the space station’s modules and take shelter aboard the Dragon and Soyuz capsules docked to the station.

According to the story at the link, ISS will cut through the expected debris cloud every orbit.

It is amazing that Russia would perform such a test on a satellite with an orbit that close to ISS’s, especially since there are many pieces of abandoned space junk in lower orbits so that their debris clouds would pose little problem, especially because their orbits would decay quickly.

This test is comparable to the Chinese anti-sat test in 2007, which caused a larger debris cloud that still poses a threat to ISS and other working satellites.

According to the Outer Space Treaty, a nation must control the objects it puts in space so that they pose no risk to others. Both the Russian and Chinese anti-sat tests prove these nations have no respect for the treaties they sign.

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  • Kyle

    Wasn’t this the plot to that Gravity movie?

  • Cloudy

    What was the target satellite’s orbit? This matters a lot. I’m surprised would not include this critical information. If it was at ISS altitude, at least most of the debris will deorbit long before the debris from the Chinese test will. The US shoot down of a failed recon sat did not produce any long-lived debris because the target orbit was so low.

  • wayne

    Do you remember when a ‘reporter’ asked the producer what it was like, to film in space?

    Gravity (2013)
    opening sequence

  • David Eastman

    Cloudy: Quoting the article: “Shortly before its interception, Kosmos 1408 was in a 472 by 498-kilometer orbit, inclined at 82.6 degrees to the equator.” So it was slightly higher than ISS. The debris field should be a concern for months to a year, perhaps longer for some fragments.

  • Edward

    From the article:
    The orbit of the International Space Station brings it through the potential debris cloud from Kosmos 1804 every 93 minutes, with each pass lasting about six minutes.
    Since the ISS orbit is close to circular (around 418 km X 422 km), I am not sure why the debris cloud does not pass through the debris cloud twice each orbit, every 42-ish minutes, once on each side of the Earth. However, if the debris is sufficiently elliptical, then it may not yet pass twice through the ISS orbit. Emphasis on the word “yet.” Since the debris field is currently higher, we should expect this condition to happen in the next few months or years.

    First it was China, now it is Russia. One has to wonder what goes on in the minds of these once and future communists.

    What a Cluster Brandon.

  • Jay

    You are right about the shooting down of US193 in 2009, it was only 130 nautical miles up. I remember trying to film it’s last orbit.
    The Chinese test the year before, blowing up the Fengyun-C weather satellite, generated about 2500 objects and that was 500 miles up. I forgot what the inclination was.

  • David Eastman

    Looked at in a conventional “use of space” frame of thought, this test is completely irrational. Since it’s best not to assume irrationality on the part of opposing actors, it falls on us to find a frame in which the test is not irrational. The only thing I’ve come up with so far is “The ISS is obsolete and failing anyways, it’s not critically important to us anymore. Demonstrating that we have a functional ASAT, and are not at all hesitant to use it, and in fact are prioritizing military over civilian in this sphere as in others” is just another part of their build up towards what looks like an invasion of the Ukraine.

  • Jeff Wright

    GRAVITY would need a Battlestar’s worth of debris. Still not good. This is one of the reasons I don’t like depots-refueling. ASAT debris hits THAT….now you have a problem. Launch everything past LEO. Even if SLS dies now, Musk will be forced to abandon his plan for a Mike Griffin approach ANYWAY if Putin keeps this crap up.
    No, I don’t want that to have to be the case. I think Putin wants ISS holed so he can spend less on space.

    This is Putin, not Rogozin-who is furious no doubt. This puts his men at risk too!
    Putin seems to want to undermine and cut his national space program almost as much as libertarians want to kill ours.
    A pox be upon both their houses. Libertarian writings are THEIR ASAT debris…and more toxic than pentaborane ever could be.

  • wayne

    Jeff Wright–
    Most, if no all, of the Libertarians (and the small “l” variety) that I know, support Space.
    They jut don’t support a “space-program.”

    I’ll drop this in here…. fairly good discussion on what makes the case for getting off Earth. (the segment on space exploration starts around the 15 minute mark.)

    Lex Fridman Podcast Number 240
    November 11, 2021
    “Neal Stephenson: Sci-Fi, Space, Aliens, AI, VR & the Future of Humanity”

    “Communism’s greatest achievement? Getting the United States to land on the Moon.”

  • But, but, but international agreements are inviolate!!! This must be fake news. (just in case: <sarcasm>)

  • Questioner

    That is the used Russian ASAT-missile.

    A-235 PL-19 Nudol – Russian Anti Ballistic Missile System

  • sippin_bourbon

    The cynic in me wonders what message is Putin trying to send, and to whom.

    Look at this action in light of his military moves regarding Ukraine.

  • Richard M

    Jeff Wright,

    Even if SLS dies now, Musk will be forced to abandon his plan for a Mike Griffin approach ANYWAY if Putin keeps this crap up.

    How is what SpaceX doing in any way analogous to a “Mike Griffin approach?”

  • wayne

    no clue what Putin is up to, in Space, but thanks for bringing up the situation in the Ukraine. The Russians have been massing forces & hardware at the border for months..

    A Piece of the Action
    ST: Original Series

  • Jeff Wright

    Richard M;

    What Musk wants is a good LEO infrastructure of Starlinks to support Starship in-flight refueling. BUT if ASATs do clog up the works-then he has to skip LEO to get to Moon/Mars. Else you risk Starship being a casualty. One of those goes Grandcamp? Now you have a Kessler syndrome not entirely unlike “Gravity.”
    This is why I want LVs far beyond even Super Heavy in size as part of a ‘skip LEO’ movement that means ASATs with no legs are useless. Do your fueling on the ground and dare Putin to attack that.

  • Edward noted: “First it was China, now it is Russia. One has to wonder what goes on in the minds of these once and future communists.”

    Welcome to the post-American world.

  • Edward

    Blair Ivey,
    You wrote: “Welcome to the post-American world.

    Thank you, but I didn’t intend to come here. I knew I should have taken that left turn at Albuquerque.

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