New tool shows the crowding of Earth’s orbit by showing up close encounters of space junk

As the number of satellites and space junk in orbit increases, the chances of these man-made objects colliding with each other are also increasing, potentially creating more debris and potentially threatening other normally functioning spacecraft,media The Verge reported. Now, a new online tool shows how crowded Earth’s orbit is by showing the close encounter between space junk.

New tool shows the crowding of Earth's orbit by showing up close encounters of space junk

The graphical tool, called the Joint Flow Service Demo, shows in real time the number of large space objects in more than 1,500 objects in low-Earth orbit that are close to each other in 20 minutes. X-axis tracking time, the Y axis shows a short distance between two approaching space objects, ranging from 5 km to the dreaded zero km. The figure is a series of arcs that show how when two pieces move quickly toward each other, possibly at the closest possible intersection, and then accelerate when they leave.

Whenever you view this tool, there are always a lot of arcs on the graph. If the arc is extremely stretched, the two objects will perform an additional close encounter. For example, the closest distance between two man-made objects is only 60 meters. Each arc is also color-coded to indicate which types of objects are approaching each other. The green arc indicates two running satellites that may deviate from each other. The yellow arc represents a movable satellite and a non-manipulator, and the red arc indicates two end-of-life objects that have no choice but to continue their potential collision.

The visualization tool was created by Moriba Jah, an associate professor at the University of Texas who specializes in orbital debris. The purpose of the tool, he says, is to show that objects always orbit each other despite the huge space around the earth. Jah told The Verge: “Objects interleav each other very quickly. He points out that some of these objects move 15 times faster than bullets. “These objects are really moving very fast, and they’re really very close to each other. People need to be aware of this. “

Jah’s visualization uses orbital data collected by the U.S. Air Force to maintain a broad catalog of space objects orbiting the Earth. He points out that the chart only shows predictions based on the data, and that the position of the object may deviate slightly. It is also important to remember that while these things are getting closer, most of these satellites are smaller. “That’s why actual collisions don’t actually occur very often,” Jah says. “Even if an object enters a few hundred meters, the actual size of the object is much smaller. “

To avoid a potential collision in space, the U.S. Air Force will warn satellite operators that if their spacecraft may touch something and give notice if the chances of a collision are high. If possible, the operator will move the satellite away to avoid potential impact. This process is happening all the time. Satellite collisions in space are now extremely rare. The most obvious collision occurred in 2009, when a U.S. communications satellite collided in space with a russian satellite that had been scrapped.

。 But that collision illustrated the danger when the satellite approached. The accident created thousands of pieces of debris in orbit that posed a threat to other working spacecraft.

Experts worry that such incidents may become more common in the future. By then, there are expected to be about 2,000 satellites in orbit, and the U.S. Air Force is actively tracking more than 22,000 pieces of debris. But especially as private companies such as SpaceX and OneWeb vow to fill Earth’s orbit with thousands of spacecraft to transmit Internet coverage to the planets below, the number of satellites in low-Earth orbit will increase dramatically. It comes after a SpaceX satellite nearly collided with an ESA satellite.

A NASA study estimates that almost all of these giant constellations must be safely removed from orbit every five years, or the risk of collision will multiply.

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