ESA’s Solar Orbiter Spacecraft Is Skimming Earth for a Gravity Assist – And It’s One of the Riskiest Planetary Flybys Ever - SciTechDaily
Nov 27, 2021 2 mins, 37 secs

Artist’s impression of Solar Orbiter making a flyby at Earth.

The chance that ESA’s Solar Orbiter spacecraft will encounter space debris during its upcoming Earth flyby is very, very low.

That there is this risk at all highlights the mess we’ve made of space – and why we need to take action to clean up after ourselves.

During the upcoming flyby, Solar Orbiter is estimated to pass just 460 km from Earth’s surface at its closest approach – about 30 kilometers above the path of the International Space Station.

It will travel twice through the Geostationary ring at 36 000 kilometers from Earth’s surface and even through low-Earth orbit, below 2000 kilometers – two regions littered with space junk.

Before we worry too much, let’s start by pointing out that the chance of Solar Orbiter being struck by debris is very, very, very small.

Earth observation missions spend their entire life in low-Earth orbit – the most debris-filled region of space, and while they perform ‘collision avoidance maneuvers’ a few times per year, Solar Orbiter will spend only a few minutes here as it heads towards closest approach and then leaves again, onward to Venus.

However small the risk, collisions with debris at low-Earth altitudes do happen.

Hubble, the NASA/ESA Space Telescope, has spent 31 years in Earth orbit at an altitude of around 547 kilometers.

ESA’s Space Debris Office also performed a collision risk analysis for this flyby as the spacecraft passed through Geostationary orbit, although it flew well above the debris-filled low-Earth orbit.

While the risk to Solar Orbiter during its upcoming Earth flyby is small, it’s still “non-zero”.

It didn’t face this risk as it swung by Venus, nor did ESA’s Space Debris Office have to perform collision risk analysis as BepiColombo recently zipped by Mercury, or when Cassini–Huygens flew by Jupiter.

Past Earth flybys, for example, when Cassini/Huygens flew by Earth in 1999, as Rosetta returned three times in 2005, 2007 and 2009, and Juno swung by in 2013, there were fewer satellites, fewer debris, and no ‘mega constellations’ in orbit.

ESA’s Space Debris Office recently began risk assessments based on Solar Orbiter’s trajectory and the expected position of cataloged objects in orbit around Earth, providing a collision probability for any specific close approaches.

Space might seem an empty, vast expanse, but satellites in Earth’s orbit face the constant risk of collision – with other satellites, dead or alive, or with fragments of debris.

For each of the Sentinel missions in Earth orbit, a collision avoidance maneuver is performed about once every five to six months when the ‘miss distance’ with another object is considered too risky.

Once Solar Orbiter comes up from low-Earth orbit and passes above geostationary orbit it is out of the risk zone.

While Solar Orbiter zips by, passing just momentarily through Earth’s orbital highways, it’s an important reminder that the space debris problem is unique to Earth, of our own making, and ours to clean up.


1. We're Facing a Myopia 'Epidemic', Scientists Say. Here's Why - ScienceAlert
Jan 20, 2022 # health 30 secs
2. Ejecting Mars' Pebbles - NASA Mars - NASA Mars Exploration
Jan 21, 2022 # science 1 min, 7 secs
3. Microsoft to Buy Activision Blizzard in All-Cash Deal Valued at $75 Billion - The Wall Street Journal
Jan 18, 2022 # technology 21 secs
4. Meat Loaf is mocked over his stance on pandemic policies following his death - Daily Mail
Jan 22, 2022 # entertainment 2 mins, 21 secs
5. Americanas (AMER3) e JHSF (JHSF3) são destaques positivos do Ibovespa na semana; Braskem (BRKM5) e Embraer (EMBR3) caem
Jan 21, 2022 # breaking 6 mins, 31 secs
6. Trust erodes in everything from church to schools to the presidency during Biden's first year
Jan 18, 2022 # breaking 1 min, 42 secs
7. Dolly Parton is 76! Country star jokes she's 'hanging out in her birthday suit' - Daily Mail
Jan 20, 2022 # entertainment 39 secs
8. MLK disobeyed unjust laws. The state of America today requires that we not forget that.
Jan 17, 2022 # breaking 1 min, 34 secs
9. If Launched by 2028, a Spacecraft Could Catch up With Oumuamua in 26 Years - Universe Today
Jan 21, 2022 # science 2 mins, 18 secs
10. Konami's Castlevania Anniversary NFT Sale Raises Over $160K – Bitcoin News - Bitcoin News
Jan 17, 2022 # technology 47 secs
11. Tonga faces 'unprecedented disaster' as New Zealand warns of further eruptions and tsunami risk - CNN
Jan 20, 2022 # politics 57 secs
12. Chris Daughtry confirms stepdaughter's cause of death - New York Post
Jan 20, 2022 # entertainment 46 secs
13. A Doctor Explains Whether 'Jaw Trainers' for Men Actually Work - menshealth.com
Jan 17, 2022 # health 30 secs
14. ‘Yellowjackets’ Season Finale: [SPOILER]’s Cause Of Death Revealed; Creators Say To Expect “Darker,” “Weirder” Season 2 - Deadline
Jan 17, 2022 # politics 3 mins, 21 secs
15. Pamela Anderson Is Reportedly Divorcing Her Husband Over ‘Unkind and Unsupportive’ Behavior - SheKnows
Jan 22, 2022 # entertainment 1 min, 10 secs
16. More than 50 million under winter weather alerts across the East Coast with snow and heavy winds on the way - CNN
Jan 17, 2022 # politics 1 min, 21 secs

SUBSCRIBE

Get monthly updates and free resources.

CONNECT WITH US

© Copyright 2022 365NEWSX - All RIGHTS RESERVED