An old russian rocket has exploded, leaving new pieces of space junk in space. Although the current situation may lead us to think about it, nothing has been prepared. Simply, it is about the accidental engine explosion that was used fifteen years ago to propel into its orbit a payload of navigation satellites.
It is not the first such rocket to explode long after launch, so it’s not been a surprise. Still, it’s important to keep an eye on the shards you’ve released, as they could become a direct or indirect threat.
And it is that, if the rocket itself was already space junk, has now left new space debris in space. It is important to have these fragments under control to prevent as far as possible the occurrence of the Kessler effect. This is a Domino effect what would happen if bits of space junk collided with man-made objects like satellites, giving rise to even more space junk, and so on. If this happens, the telecommunications on earth. Even the International Space Station itself could suffer the consequences. It has already had to deal with space debris on occasion, so a Kessler effect could put it on the ropes.
The recent Russian rocket
This recent explosion has occurred in a SOZ ullage engine, also know as ullage rocket. It happened on April 15, although it was released this week, on May 3. As for the rocket, it is known that it was launched in 2007 to put into orbit a set of GLONASS satelliteswhich are the Russian equivalent to the American GPS and the European Galileo.
These types of rockets play a fundamental role, since they gradually accelerate the spacecraft, so that the displaced fuel due to microgravity return to your place and perform your necessary function.
The problem is that these motors they do not fully consume their own fuel when they are released. So once they finish their part of the job, they can explode even over a period of several years. In fact, the rocket that has just become new space junk is not the first of its kind to explode. According to He explained on his Twitter account the astrophysicist Jonathan McDowellat least others are known 54 cases.
Each of them has released new pieces of space junk that are being tracked. Currently there 173 under reviewamong them the 16 who just left this last rocket. However, those are not all, since it is more difficult to follow those that are in higher orbits. It is known that many of them will re-enter the Earth’s atmosphere, but it may take several years for that to happen, so it is important to get as many as possible under control.
Fight against space junk
Space debris is becoming a growing problem. At the moment there is not much more to do than keep an eye on it, as is being done with the fragments of the rocket that just exploded. However, other options should be explored.
Some companies, like the SpaceX of Elon Musk, they are trying to use reusable rockets. Eliminates problems like ullage engines. But it is not clear to what extent it compensates for the large number of satellites that this company is depositing in space and that sooner or later may also become space debris.
The more plagued the sky, the more likely it is that the dreaded Kessler effect. And while for a long time this has been raised as a simple hypothesis, as space debris increases the risk becomes more tangible. Nothing can be done against all those rockets that have been stranded or against satellites or fragments of useless ships. But it is possible to reason before sending more pieces into space to what extent they are necessary and what consequences they may have in the long term. Having seen what has been seen, it is a more than necessary reflection.