The mystery of a destroyed Chinese satellite has been solved: Yunhai 1-02 collided with the remains of a Russian rocket in March 2021.
There was great astonishment when, on March 18 of this year, the two-year-old Yunhai 1-02 satellite surprisingly broke into several pieces. Now an explanation seems to have been found.
Chinese satellite collided with Russian missile
As Gizmodo reports, the Chinese military satellite collided with the remains of a Russian Zenit-2 rocket and then broke into numerous pieces. Astrophysicist Jonathan McDowell found this out. His eye was an update of the Space Track catalog – it collects all possible information about space, including data on space debris. He had never seen the note “collided with a satellite” before.
After a little research, it was clear to McDowell: 48078, one of the remains of the Russian rocket, and the Chinese satellite were very, very close on March 18, 2021 – at 7:41 a.m., exactly when Yunhai 1-02 broke up . At least 37 parts resulted from this collision, McDowell writes, but it is likely that there will be more. The collision was presumably not “catastrophic” because Yunhai was able to correct its orbit afterwards. And signals from the satellite were still being received at the end of May of this year.
Space debris is becoming more and more of a problem
Not least because of advances such as Elon Musk’s Starlink mini-satellite fleet, experts repeatedly come forward with warnings. According to the European space agency Esa, more than 28,000 known pieces of space junk are already circling the earth – the number of unreported cases is likely to be significantly higher. With every satellite that is launched into space, the risk of a collision increases.
In the meantime, startups have also taken on the problem: Astroscale from Tokyo, for example, is working on a solution to collect space junk and let it burn up in the earth’s atmosphere. Fortunately, provisions are also made in the event that difficulties arise: in fact, the 1967 Space Treaty stipulates who is liable if space junk falls on a house or causes other damage.