Journal article  Open Access

The short-term effects of the Cosmos 1408 fragmentation on neighboring inhabited space stations and large constellations

Pardini C., Anselmo L.

ASAT tests  Space debris  Fragmentation cloud  Debris flux  Space stations  Starlink constellation 

In terms of cataloged debris produced, the anti-satellite test carried out by Russia, in November 2021, at an altitude of about 480 km, leading to the destruction of the old satellite Cosmos 1408, was the second worst to date and represented the third worst fragmentation in orbit. It generated more than 1/4 of the cataloged debris produced over 55 years by all such tests and almost twice as many as were produced by all previous Soviet tests. After placing this event in its historical context, this paper analyzes in detail how the evolution of the Cosmos 1408 debris cloud affected the environment below 600 km in the first seven months, focusing on the two operational space stations and the Starlink large constellation of satellites. During the first six months following the test, the Cosmos 1408 cloud of fragments nearly doubled the average flux of cataloged objects on the International Space Station and increased by about 3/4 that on China's Tiangong. In the same period, the Starlink large constellation saw an average increase in the flux of cataloged objects of about 20%. Some orbital planes, the "counter-rotating" ones with respect to the Cosmos 1408 debris cloud, were more affected than others, and the affected planes gradually changed over time, due to the differential precession of cloud and constellation nodes. However, being the Starlink constellation 70 km higher up, the flux of Cosmos 1408 cataloged debris steadily decreased over the period analyzed, due to the cloud orbital decay, reducing to just over a quarter of its extrapolated initial value after seven months.

Source: Acta astronautica (2023). doi:10.1016/j.actaastro.2023.02.043

Publisher: Pergamon Press., Elmsford, N.Y., Stati Uniti d'America


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BibTeX entry
	title = {The short-term effects of the Cosmos 1408 fragmentation on neighboring inhabited space stations and large constellations},
	author = {Pardini C. and Anselmo L.},
	publisher = {Pergamon Press., Elmsford, N.Y., Stati Uniti d'America},
	doi = {10.1016/j.actaastro.2023.02.043},
	journal = {Acta astronautica},
	year = {2023}