December 5, 2022

Incorrectly identifying the origin of the missile on its way to colliding with the moon

Incorrectly identifying the origin of the missile on its way to colliding with the moon

The object that was now on target to collide with the Moon was first announced by Bill Gray, an independent researcher focusing on orbital dynamics and astronomical software developer. He identified it in 2015 as the second stage of the SpaceX Falcon rocket, which was used in the same year to launch a rocket US Deep Climate Observatory DSCOVR.

The object, initially called WE0913A by asteroid watchers, had passed the moon two days after DSCOVR’s launch, He said.

“I and others came to accept the determination with the second stage as correct,” Gray said on his website. “The object was about the brightness we would expect, appeared at the expected time and moved in a reasonable orbit.”

new definition

But over the weekend, Gray said he mistook the object’s origin after communicating with John Giorgini of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, which does not track space junk but carefully tracks many active spacecraft, including DSCOVR.

“John noted that JPL’s Horizons system showed that the DSCOVR spacecraft’s trajectory does not come particularly close to the Moon. It would be a little strange for the second phase to pass directly after the Moon, while DSCOVR was in another part of the sky. There’s a second phase in there,” Gray said. Always a bit of a breakup but that was suspiciously big.”

Analysis led by NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory Center for Near-Earth Object Studies indicates that the object expected to impact the far side of the moon on March 4 is likely to be the Chinese Chang’e 5-T1 booster rocket launched in 2014. , according to a NASA statement. released Monday.

“It is not a SpaceX Falcon 9’s second phase of a 2015 mission as previously reported. This update results from an analysis of the object’s orbits in the 2016-2017 time frame.”

Gray said he later reviewed his data and has now come down to a different interpretation: He said the body was the third stage of a Chinese Long March 3C rocket. Used to launch the Lunar Orbiter in 2014.

The rocket is expected to hit the moon at 7:26 a.m. ET on March 4. However, the impact will be on the far side of the Moon and will not be visible from Earth. The missile would likely disintegrate upon impact and create a crater about 10 to 20 meters (32.8 ft to 65.6 ft) wide.

The need for formal monitoring of space junk

Jonathan McDowell, astronomer at Astrophysics Center | Harvard and SmithsonianHe said identifying space junk was “not easy” in deep space orbit, but said Gray’s new identification was likely correct. “I’d give at least 80% and maybe 90% odds.”

He explained, “It’s especially difficult for these things in chaotic deep space orbits where you pick up something several years after you last saw it and try to undo it to match it with a known mission.”

McDowell said the confusion over the rocket’s stage identity highlighted the need for NASA and other official agencies to closely monitor waste in deep space, rather than relying on the limited resources of personnel and academics.

There are approximately 30 to 50 lost Deep space objects such as the rocket stage have been missing for years, he said, but space agencies have not systematically tracked space debris away from Earth.

“It’s not like LEO where traffic is high, so junk is a danger to other spacecraft. But you think it would be a good idea to know where we’ve thrown things.”

“It’s not a very high priority, but you would think the world could employ at least one person to do it right, and possibly require space agencies to publicize their deep space paths,” he added.

More spacecraft will go to this type of orbit in the future, Gray said, and consideration should be given to keeping “outer space clean.” over there Simple steps government agencies and missile-launching companies can take, such as making the last known orbital data items publicly available.