Bigelow Aerospace’s Genesis II prototype habitat captured this self-portrait in Earth orbit. (Bigelow Aerospace founder Robert Bigelow had the name of his granddaughter, Blair, stitched onto the habitat’s exterior. Image credit: Bigelow Aerospace
It could have been bad.
There was a 5.6 percent chance that two big pieces of space debris — Bigelow Aerospace’s Genesis II experimental habitat and Russia’s defunct Cosmos 1300 satellite — would collide high above Earth early on 18 September 2019. That warning came the day before via Twitter from Bigelow Aerospace representatives, who cited analyses by the U.S. Air Force.
One-in-twenty odds are actually quite high in the satellite world. For perspective: Earlier this month, the European Space Agency (ESA) moved its Aeolus satellite after learning there was a 1-in-1,000 chance of a smashup with one of SpaceX’s Starlink internet satellites. Indeed, the standard industry threshold for performing a collision-avoidance manoeuvre is a 1-in-10,000 probability.
But Genesis II and Cosmos 1300 ended up whizzing safely past one another, continuing silently on their circular paths about 515 kilometres (320 miles) above the planet.
“Per the Air Force, there was no collision between Genesis II and Cosmos 1300,” Bigelow Aerospace said via Twitter recently.
Per the Air ...