Most of the aerospace world is expected to be watching the skies over Antarctica and New Zealand over the next few hours.
Earlier this week, LeoLabs Inc, a company that tracks objects in Low Earth Orbit, issued a statement regarding two large objects which posed a “high risk” of collision at 00:51 UTC on 16 October 2020 (8:51 pm EDT on 15 October).
The two objects, as of publication at 3pm EDT, held a greater than 10% chance of colliding 991 km above Antarctica.
Both objects, an old Soviet-era satellite and the upper stage of a Chang Zheng 4C Chinese rocket, are inoperable and uncontrollable. Therefore, there is no way to move one of them out of the way to avoid the potential collision.
The first object is Cosmos 2004, a defunct Soviet satellite.
Cosmos 2004 launched from the Plesetsk Cosmodrome in the northern Soviet Union (now the Russian Federation) on 22 February 1989 aboard a Kosmos-3M launch vehicle.
The spacecraft was the 64th of 99 satellites launched as part of the Soviet-Russian Parus navigation and data relay constellation.
Location of the potential collision. (Credit: LeoLabs)
It is believed that the Parus satellites acted as a relay ...