What happened between Russian satellite and Nasa's TIMED mission?

We recently learned this through analysis, says Nasa

Web Desk
April 23, 2024
Both the spacecraft passed close to each other. — Blue Canyon Technologies/Nasa
Both the spacecraft passed close to each other. — Blue Canyon Technologies/Nasa

Scientists have unveiled new information about the narrow miss of Nasa’s TIMED spacecraft and a dead Russian satellite Cosmos 2221 in February, as they were much closer to crashing into each other than earlier thought.

Both the spacecraft passed close to each other only 33 feet apart on February 28 and they barely avoided the collision.

During a presentation, a Nasa Deputy Administrator Pam Melroy, said: "We recently learned through analysis that the pass ended up being less than 10 metres [33 feet] apart — within the hard-body parametres of both satellites."

He told a 39th Space Symposium in Colorado: "It was very shocking personally, and also for all of us at Nasa."

"Had the two satellites collided, we would have seen significant debris generation — tiny shards travelling tens of thousands of miles an hour, waiting to puncture a hole in another spacecraft, potentially putting human lives at risk," Melroy said.

There is a large number of debris formed by human activities such as dead satellites, rocket stages and so on. They all travel at a very high speed in space.

An estimate from the European Space Agency (ESA) suggested that there are 130 million pieces of such debris that measure between 1 mm and 1 cm across, with a further million between 1 cm and 10 cm, and over 35,000 larger than 10 cm.

The number of human-made space objects surged in the recent decade with currently 11,500 satellites orbiting our planet.

Nasa has stepped up efforts to ensure that space debris does not cause harm and becomes beneficial to humanity.

"Nasa is making sure that we're aligning our resources to support sustainable activity for us and for all," Melroy said in a statement.