A new cloud of Russian garbage has appeared in Earth’s orbit. It was formed by object No.32398, which exploded on April 3. This was reported by the 18th Squadron of US Space Forces.
— 18th Space Defense Squadron (@18thSDS) May 3, 2022
Currently, 16 fragments formed as a result of the event are being tracked in space. The No.32398 was a space tug engine developed in 1967. In 2007, it was used to orbit three Russian GLONASS satellites.
Astrophysicist and satellite tracking specialist Jonathan McDowell has explained in his tweets that it was the explosion of SOZ motor (Launch Assurance System) to which this one belonged, was predictable:
“The SOZ motors don’t use up all their propellant when they fire. And they have an unfortunate tendency to go bang years or decades later, leaving a bunch of debris in highly elliptical orbit. At least 54 SOZ motors have now exploded.”
Yet another Russian SOZ ullage motor has disintegrated in high orbit. This one is from the 2007 launch of three Glonass navigation satellites. https://t.co/ptavAE8Rw7
— Jonathan McDowell (@planet4589) May 3, 2022
173 debris objects from those explosions are currently being tracked, but the true number is probably a lot higher because tracking is less complete for high orbits. There are currently 64 of them still in orbit which should explode.