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The breakup of China’s Yunhai-1 (02) satellite has been related to a collision with space debris

According to NASA, an encounter with a minor piece of debris from a Russian satellite launch led the Chinese spacecraft Yunhai-1 (02) to break down. The Yunhai-1 (02) satellite was built by the Shanghai Academy of Spaceflight Technology and deployed into the Sun-synchronous orbit having a height of around 783 kilometers in September 2019. It disintegrated on March 18, 2021, resulting in a massive amount of debris.

According to the December 2021 issue of NSS’s Orbital Debris Quarterly News office, the Yunhai 1-02 meteorological spacecraft’s (2019-063A) disintegration last year was caused by an accidental crash with a small, mission-connected debris object (1996-051Q) linked with the Zenit-2 launch vehicle for the launch of the Russian Cosmos 2333 military transmitters intelligence satellite in 1996.

According to SpaceNews, Darren McKnight, a senior technical fellow at the LeoLabs and a member of International Academy of Astronautics’ Space Debris Committee, “moderate confidence” exists that the event was produced by a bit of debris in 1–10-centimeter size range.

According to the study, the disintegration of Yunhai-1 (02) is the 5th documented accidental collision between 2 cataloged objects. The 18 SPCS have cataloged a total of 37 debris from the collision, four of which had reentered the atmosphere as of October 1, 2021.

“I believe what’s noteworthy is that we were capable of figuring out that the breakage was triggered by a collision with some other object,” says Brian Weeden, the Secure World Foundation’s director of program development. “It’s very easy to do when the repercussions are disastrous, as in the case of the [2009] Iridium-Cosmos collision, however, there are a number of lower scale occurrences that result in minor satellite abnormalities and/or the discharge of only a few bits of debris that are much more difficult to figure out.”

The collision of the defunct Russian military spaceship Kosmos-2251 with the operating Iridium 33 communications satellite in 2009 was the most significant. Almost 2,000 bits of trackable debris were produced as a result of the incident.

Suspected collisions can be triggered by particles of debris as small as a few millimeters in diameter, which are extremely difficult to track or keep in the satellite database regularly or reliably. Lethal non-trackable debris is a term used to describe very small debris bits.

In the instance of Yunhai-1 (02), it seems that 18 SPCS was able to successfully follow the impactor to some extent but did not keep it in the satellite catalogue due to its small size and problems of tracking it regularly. Surprisingly, amateur observations show that Yunhai-1 (02) satellite is still working to some extent despite what was going to be a high-velocity, high-energy collision.

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