SpaceX satellite narrowly missed a Chinese lab

Tensions between the United States and China, already on the rise, now have included the Space Race, after a pair of SpaceX satellites narrowly missed a Chinese space station earlier this year.

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World News

December 29, 2021 - 9:32 AM

The SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket and Crew Dragon capsule on launch pad 39A at NASA's Kennedy Space Center on Nov. 9, 2021, in Cape Canaveral, Florida. Photo by (Joe Raedle/Getty Images/TNS)

A pair of dangerously close space encounters are adding to tensions between the U.S. and China, while underscoring the potential peril to astronauts as satellite constellations and debris proliferate in orbit.

Two SpaceX satellites had near misses with China’s space station earlier this year — one of them within 2.5 miles — in the latest sign of dangerous overcrowding in low earth orbit.

In both instances, the orbiting lab made evasive maneuvers to avoid the Starlink satellites operated by Elon Musk’s space venture. The margin for a near-miss in October could have been as little as a few hundred meters if the astronauts on board the space station hadn’t shifted to a different altitude, according to data compiled by astrophysicist Jonathan McDowell.

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