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‘Very high risk’ defunct Russian Satellite and Chinese rocket body will collide tonight: report

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Experts believe a defunct Russian satellite and a discarded Chinese rocket could smash into each other high above the earth on Thursday, according to reports.

Satellite-tracking company LeoLabs on Wednesday said the defunct objects could come within 39 feet of each other and that there was a 10% chance that they could still collide around 8:56 p.m. ET. The company deemed the potential crash to be a “very high risk.”

“This event continues to be very high risk and will likely stay this way through the time of closest approach,” LeoLabs tweeted.

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Jonathan McDowell, an astrophysicist at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, said the two objects were a defunct Soviet navigation satellite called Parus [Kosmos 2004] that launched in 1989 and a Chinese rocket stage.

As of Tuesday, the objects — with a mass of roughly three metric tons — were in low-Earth orbit at an altitude of around 615 miles, LeoLabs said.

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Because the objects are located high above the ground, they don’t pose a risk to anyone on earth. However, a crash could cause more debris to orbit the earth, which could increase the risk of future collisions.

The debris could also threaten astronauts.

“If this turns into a collision, it’s probably thousands to tens of thousands of new pieces of debris that is going to cause a headache for any satellite that’s going out into upper low-Earth orbit, or even beyond,” said Dan Ceperley, the CEO of LeoLabs, according to Business Insider. “It’s maybe a much bigger problem than a lot of people realize.”

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As of February this year, there are 128 million debris objects in orbit, according to the European Space Agency. Roughly 34,000 of those objects are greater than 10 cm. 

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