More than four months after India destroyed one of its own satellites in space, dozens of pieces of debris from the cataclysmic event still circulate in orbit, posing a small but potential threat to other functioning spacecraft that might pass close by.
India’s test, known as “Mission Shakti,” broke the satellite apart into hundreds of pieces of debris that have since been tracked by the United States Air Force.
Earth orbit is already a fairly congested place, filled with more than 22,000 pieces of debris and objects larger than a softball, according to the European Space Agency.
But the collision caused some pieces to jump to higher orbits than the original satellite, and it even put pieces in the same general path as the International Space Station, which orbits at 250 miles (400 kilometers) and currently has six astronauts on board.
the collision caused some pieces to jump to higher orbits than the original satellite That’s just the nature of these kinds of tests, according to Jonathan McDowell, an astrophysicist at Harvard who has been tracking the debris with data from the Air Force.
Image: NASA Now, more than 130 days later, there are still more than 50 pieces of debris from India’s ASAT test currently being tracked by the US Air Force, according to Maj. Chiles.
That demonstration also created hundreds to thousands of pieces of debris, some of which jumped into higher orbits than that of the original satellite.