Earth-observing satellite narrowly avoids colliding with Russian debris in space

As it maneuvered to avoid space debris, a crucial Earth-observing satellite had a heart-racing near-miss. In a Twitter thread on Wednesday, the European Space Agency described the spectacular escape of the Sentinel-1A satellite, linking to a Russian missile test in 2021 that scattered fragments of a defunct Cosmos spacecraft around in orbit. Sentinel-1A took a series of emergency maneuvers on Monday to prevent a “high-risk collision,” according to the European Space Agency.

Due to a major new, potentially hazardous debris field caused by a Russian anti-satellite test (ASAT) in 2021, 7 crew members aboard the ISS (International Space Station) were forced to take emergency housing in a spacecraft which is linked to the ISS on Monday.

After a Russian missile blew up one of the nation’s dead surveillance satellites throughout the weekend, the astronauts hid inside the Russian Soyuz and SpaceX Crew Dragon spacecraft.

On Monday, State Department of the United States denounced the anti-satellite test. “The Russian Federation recklessly executed a catastrophic satellite test of a direct ascent and ASAT (anti-satellite) missile against one of its satellites,” said State Department spokesperson Ned Price.

In a tweet, ESA Operations said, “Collision avoidance monitoring is regrettably routine job at Mission Control and our personnel is well-trained in reacting to high-risk incidents.  However, this near-head-on collision was unusual in that the scenario arose quickly, was difficult to avoid, and we got less than 24 hours’ notice.”

The Earth-monitoring Copernicus program includes Sentinel-1A. The satellite identifies and monitors maps of sea ice, and oil spills track surface changes, and provide information to aid in natural disaster response.

The spacecraft moved to avoid a large debris fragment. A satellite can be damaged by even small pieces of junk. Sentinel-1A’s orbit was changed by 460 feet by the European Space Agency (ESA) (140 meters). “Despite the fact that the Cosmos satellite orbited over 200 kilometers below Sentinel-1, the energy produced during its explosion propelled portions of it all the way up, overlapping our orbit,” ESA reported. The squad just had a few hours to organize and carry out the maneuvers.

For the time being, Sentinel-1A is secure, but the European Space Agency has warned of “devastating hazards to the entire space environment from the (intended) generation of space debris.” The United States characterized the Russian missile test as reckless at the time.

Space debris is becoming a bigger hazard, posing a threat not only to satellites and though also to the human-inhabited space station. Occasionally, the International Space Station must avoid debris. Over 1,500 additional bits of debris were formed after Cosmos was destroyed. Sentinel isn’t the only one who has had a close call.

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