On February 28, 2024, the world miraculously avoided another space disaster that could have significantly contaminated low Earth orbit. Of course, the Russians are to blame again, said LeoLabs, a company that monitors objects in space.

On February 28, 2024, the company observed a dangerous rapprochement between Russia’s long-established inoperative electronic intelligence satellite Kosmos-2221, launched in 1992, and NASA’s active TIMED satellite, launched in 2002. The devices passed at a distance of less than 20 meters (!) from each other, which is very rare. The relative speed of Kosmos-2221 and TIMED was an impressive 14 km/s.

Russian and US satellites almost collide in orbit

In the event of a collision between satellites with a total mass of 2,530 kg at this speed, 2,000 to 7,000 fragments could be formed. As of November 15, 2024, about 12,000 pieces of debris were recorded in low Earth orbit, so a hypothetical collision could double their number. This amount of debris in low-Earth orbit would create huge problems for existing satellite constellations, such as Starlink.

This time, there was no disaster, but given the amount of inoperable space junk that the USSR/Russia launched during their existence, such a collision is only a matter of time.