This figure highlights how debris from the Russian military’s test cross the orbit of the International Space Station, China’s new Tiangong space station, and the orbits of several large satellite constellations made up, collectively, of 1000s of satellites.
Credit: OSI


A new assessment of the recent Russian anti-satellite test has been released by the Outer Space Institute (OSI), based at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver, Canada.

The Russian military used a ground-based missile to strike their defunct Cosmos-1408 satellite on November 15, 2021.  

The defunct Soviet-era satellite had a mass of about 1.7 metric tons (1,750 kilograms) and was orbiting at an altitude of about 298 miles (480 kilometers).

“Due to the high impact energies involved, debris from a kinetic anti-satellite (ASAT) test such as this end up on highly eccentric orbits that cross the orbits of 1000s of other satellites twice per revolution,” the OSI paper explains.

Clutter in the cosmos.
Credit: Used with permission: Melrae Pictures/Space Junk 3D

Non-trackable debris

While some of the debris from the Russian ASAT test will deorbit quickly, a significant fraction will remain in orbit for years or longer, the preliminary OSI discussion paper points out.

“Of particular concern is the non-trackable debris, which will be more abundant than the trackable debris by at least an order of magnitude. Since small debris cannot be detected, collision avoidance maneuvers cannot be used to protect against them. And at typical relative speeds of about 10 km/s (36,000 km/hr), even a tiny piece can disable a satellite or kill an astronaut,” the OSI paper adds.

The Outer Space Institute (OSI) is network of world-leading space experts. For more information on their work, go to:

To read the full paper – Russian ASAT test: A preliminary discussion — by Aaron Boley and Michael Byers, OSI co-directors, go to:

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