On the Earth’s orbit, “unidentified flying objects”

For the entire history of the existence of astronautics, 6,000 space vehicles have been sent to various altitudes of near-Earth orbit. Some of them disintegrated, others – exploded, still others – and continue to soar in weightlessness, having long been put out of order. Once these “gizmos” sent to the Earth the most important data, and now they are called simply: space debris. Any garbage, if you do not follow how and when it is added, – after a while starts to interfere with the vital activity of the surrounding objects. In the case of space debris, – to threaten the working satellites.

At the moment, around 24,000 space objects rotate in near-Earth orbits, more than 10 centimeters and, presumably, more than 600,000 small fragments. The functioning satellites are about 1200, everything else is space debris. All this flies with a huge speed – kilometers per second. If such a small fragment splits into a satellite, it will be similar to a frontal collision of two huge machines at a speed of 60 km / h. How to prevent such a clash? It remains only to put all these objects in the directory and keep track of each one personally. This is what the FANO at the Ballistic Center of the Keldysh Institute of Applied Mathematics is doing at the Center for Information Collection and Processing for Objects of Technogenic Origin (TSITO) of the Russian Academy of Sciences. The catalog of scientists now has about 5000 objects in high Earth orbits, followed closely by them. In order to evenly observe the entire geostationary orbit, a huge network of observatories and individual telescopes was deployed on all continents of the Earth.

The scientists of the Keldysh Ballistic Center of the Russian Academy of Sciences-PHANO now have the opportunity to collect meteorological information about space objects on a geostationary (36,000 km above the Earth) and high-elliptical orbits (perigee in the low orbit and apogee up to 40,000 km), and As well as circular semidiurnal orbits of the Glonass-GPS type (21 000 km).

Thanks to these observations, information has appeared on a new class of objects with amazing characteristics: a very small mass and a huge area. Most likely these are some flying films, which are either formed during the destruction of satellites and rocket stages, or simply exfoliate even from working spacecraft. The result is an artificial-natural solar sail: an adaptation that uses the pressure of sunlight for movement.

Scientists of the Ballistic Center have been able to track the ballistic evolution of such objects for more than 10 years, some of which are coming down from the geostationary orbit under the influence of sunlight pressure, then they come back.
Explains Igor Molotov, head of the project coordination team of the NSOI AFN IPM. MVKeldysh of the Russian Academy of Sciences:

“These films are still interesting because they have a very variable gloss, sometimes they are opened on a small telescope, and at large they are not visible.” Some observatories have several telescopes of various sizes, for example, the Crimean, they have a telescope 2, 6 m – very large, and small – 22 cm. And now they see this film on a 22 cm telescope, and when they move to a 2.6 m telescope, in order to conduct photometric observations that can help understand what material it consists of , – do not see at all. At 22 cm they see it! Probably, it happened because the film turned to the Earth with its edge and lost its shine. ”

To rare examples of space debris can also be attributed very large satellites and vehicles that carry radioactive substances on board. Victor Voropaev, leading engineer of the IPM named after. MVKeldysh of the Russian Academy of Sciences:

“There was an example of the fall of such a satellite into Canada in 1977. This was our Soviet satellite Kosmos-954 with a nuclear power plant on board, which did not work the system of retraction into the burial orbit, and as a result, radioactive parts fell to the north Not so long ago, the facts of partial destruction of old satellites, with the release of a coolant were noted already on the orbit of the burial site. Now the leading space countries are developing satellite projects capable of determining the level of radiation from such fragments Comrade. ”

A separate scientific direction of the Keldysh IPM Ballistic Center is to study the behavior of groups of space debris fragments generated by a single destroyed satellite or rocket stage: how do they behave over time? These formations are called “cloud fragments.” They can also be attributed to particularly interesting objects of space debris. Some studies show that they are folded into a torus (a geometric body formed by the rotation of a circle around its non-intersecting plane and lying in a straight plane with it.) An approximate form of the torus has a life ring, a steering wheel).

The number of different groups of objects is growing every year, both in Russian and American bases. Since each such object can become a threat to a working satellite, the trajectories and approach time are calculated, and then this information is provided to the operator. But, unfortunately, far from every modern satellite there is a possibility of maneuvering.