Tonight, two large masses of space debris could collide and fill Earth’s low orbit with scrap.

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While there is no risk of harming anyone on Earth, if debris collides, it could be the start of a feedback loop of growing orbital litter that will make space travel more difficult. If enough debris filled Earth’s orbit, there would be great danger to active satellites and even rocket launches.

“We are not in a position to remove any debris like this,” said Gorman. “So it will be there for a while. Given the height of about 1000 km, these things will not come in again in weeks or months. Some of them will likely stay there for some time.”

During that time, debris poses a danger to other creatures, such as active satellites. In higher orbits, space debris has forced even the International Space Station (ISS) to perform costly maneuvers to avoid rubbish, potentially damaging the station.

An artist’s impression released on September 1, 2011 by the European Space Agency (ESA) shows the debris field in Low Earth Orbit (LEO) extending 2,000 km above the Earth’s surface, which is based on actual data, not items in their actual size or density. Photo by AHP / HO / HANDOUT.

This is not the first close of the year. In January, a decommissioned space telescope and an American test payload passed 47 meters from each other.

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As in the recent month of January, there is no way to contact any of the defunct beings and make them change their position out of harm’s way. The Chinese missile stage is part of the Long March 4B missile that was launched on May 10, 1999. The satellite is a Russian satellite, Parus, launched on February 22, 1989.

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