A Chinese satellite had a near collision with one of the many chunks of debris left by the fallout of a recent Russian anti-satellite missile test, state media reported.
Moscow blew up one of its old satellites in November in a missile test that sparked international anger because of the space debris it scattered around the Earth’s orbit.
U.S. officials accused Moscow of carrying out a “dangerous and irresponsible” strike that had created a cloud of debris and forced the International Space Station’s crew to take evasive action.
Russia dismissed those concerns and denied that the space debris posed any danger but a new incident with a Chinese satellite suggests otherwise.
In the latest encounter, China’s Tsinghua Science Satellite came as close as 14.5 m from a piece of debris, the state-run Global Times reported on Wednesday.
The “extremely dangerous” event happened on Tuesday, the report added, citing a social media post by Chinese space authorities that has since been removed.
Space debris expert Liu Jing told the Global Times that it was rare for debris and spacecraft to be just a dozen metres apart, adding that the probability of collision this time was “very high”.
Last year there were close encounters between the Chinese space station and satellites operated by Elon Musk’s SpaceX, which led to Beijing accusing the U.S. of unsafe conduct in space.