Military Review

Collision in orbit

In late February last year, many media reported a collision in orbit of the American and Russian satellites. The Americans were not lucky, because their satellite was active, but ours was not.

At ORT, information about this event was presented as follows: the satellites moved to meet each other and collided at a speed of 8 kilometers per second. This was the first time a satellite collided in orbit. All these three statements, to put it mildly, are not entirely accurate.

Let's start with a beautiful on-screen image, when two satellites rush in orbit towards each other. Since the beginning of the space age, all satellites and spacecraft, both ours and the US, have always been launched only in the direction of rotation of the Earth, in order to use its own linear rotational speed, reaching 0,5 km / s at the equator. What this gives you can be seen in a simple example: our aged, but reliable royal "seven", if launched at the equator in the direction of Zeemli rotation, can put a payload of 5 tons into orbit, against rotation - less than one and a half tons. And why is this necessary? Unless, for the sake of some exotic goal, to present which I lack imagination.

The only difference is that our northern Plesetsk launch site launches satellites moving at a large angle to the equatorial plane, and the American one at Cape Canaveral - at a much smaller one. However, these angles are determined by purely practical goals. So the collision most likely happened just on overlapping courses.

But let us return to the variant voiced by the media, that the satellites were moving towards each other and collided at a speed of 8 km / s. Something is not good for our journalists, not only with Russian speech, but also with arithmetic. In this embodiment, the speed of the counter impact will be 16 km / s, and with such an impact a significant part of the mass of both satellites will simply evaporate.

And finally, this case is not the first and not the only one. In the 90 of the last century, several cases of astronomers observing similar collisions were published. 2 August 1983, a meteor patrol in the Novgorod region observed a collision of two objects, presumably, artificial earth satellites, which moved perpendicularly to each other. After crossing their trajectories an explosion occurred. One of the objects, without changing the speed and direction of motion, went further in orbit, while the other changed the course to 45 degrees to the north and went beyond the horizon.

27 July 1992, a group from the Youth Scientific-Astronomical Club "Procyon" was on the astropolygon of the Mining Institute in the Pskov region. There, they conducted the training program for observing the Cassiopeid meteor shower. They also observed the movement of artificial earth satellites. One of them in 1.23 MSC reached the area below the constellation Delphine, and suddenly for a second 2 was illuminated by the brightest flash. Such that the light of the stars faded, and shadows lay on the earth. To the surprise of observers, after this outbreak, the satellite did not cease to exist, but only slowly disappeared into a cone of earthly shadow. After 100 minutes, another satellite was seen flying along the same orbit - this is possible only if both satellites are launched by the same rocket (I’ll add that it was most likely the same satellite that during this time, turn around the Earth. (VP)

Having reached the flash region, the satellite, at an enormous speed, crashing into the cloud of particles remaining after the flash, “lit up,” changing its brilliance to the magnitudes of 5-6. (This message was published on 21 September 1992 of the year in the newspaper “CHAS PIK”). You can also mention the earlier reports of American and Indian astronomers who observed similar phenomena.

There is another category of emergencies in orbit that could not be observed visually because of the cloud cover under the epicenter of the event, and due to the lack of visual observations of this part of the sky (recall that the Earth’s 2 / 3 are seas and oceans) .

Looking through the official messages from the day of the launch of the first artificial Earth satellites, we managed to count about a dozen emergency situations in orbits, when a normally launched and normally functioning device suddenly stopped pa6 from here. And among them were satellites with several independent information transmission channels and independent power. Naturally, we are talking only about non-military satellite, the military does not like to advertise their failures. And the sudden cessation of satellite functioning most often indicates a catastrophic collision with an unknown body. And every year the probability of such collisions increases continuously. Today, thousands of active and inactive satellites and their fragments revolve around the Earth, not counting the smaller space debris. And satellites of any purpose, which do not require the maintenance of atmospheric pressure inside them, are highly vulnerable to any external mechanical effect, as soon as the protective cones are dropped, protecting them at the active launch site.

I want to remind history with american lunar modules. The astronauts who returned to Earth then joked that they were made from food foil, and they were afraid to pierce their shell when carelessly moving their elbows. And besides a collision in intersecting orbits with space debris, an even greater danger exists when colliding with small meteoroids, whose intrusion velocity into the Earth’s atmosphere can exceed 40 km / s. Such the smallest pebble will pierce any satellite through like an armor-piercing projectile. Even micron-sized particles, so-called micrometeorites, are dangerous. Already at the first lowered spacecraft, plates made of various materials were installed - in order to assess the degree of micrometeorite impact on them, and with a long stay in orbit, these test plates were as if eaten by microcraters.

Spacecraft traveling to outer planets, especially Mars, are at even greater risk. Next to it, in the space between Mars and Jupiter, there is an asteroid belt, including both planet-like asteroids, such as Ceres, Juno and Vesta, and billions of smaller fragments. With their mutual collision, those that lose orbital speed, or go to closer to the Sun orbits, first of all the Martian or fall on the Sun. In this regard, the Martian orbit is the most dangerous for terrestrial vehicles, as evidenced by numerous cases of termination of their operation when reaching Mars or its satellites. Unfortunately, all there anti-meteoritic screens and protective fields exist so far only on the pages of science fiction novels.
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