U.S. and Russian satellites collide creating a cloud of hazardous debris

February 12, 2009

Satellite Collision(ChattahBox) — Two space satellites smashed into each other destroying the two devices and sending debris hurtling at 25,000mph through space. A US commercial Iridium spacecraft known as American Iridium Satellite 33, hit a defunct Russian satellite known as Cosmos 2251, at an altitude of about 800km (500 miles) over Siberia on Tuesday, Nasa said.  The Iridium satellite was launched in 1997 weighing 1,433lb, while the Russian device weighing 2,094lb was launched in 1993.

The American and Russian devices collided around 485 miles above Siberia – and directly above the International Space Station – on Tuesday at 11.55 EST (04.55 GMT).

‘We believe it’s the first time that two satellites have collided in orbit,’ American military spokesman said.
They ran into each other. Nothing has the right of way up there. We don’t have an air traffic controller in space.

‘There is no universal way of knowing what’s coming in your direction.’

Nasa is now monitoring a cloud of debris produced by the impact made up of more than 600 pieces.

But the agency believes the risk to the ISS and the three astronauts on board should be low.

Nasa spokesman John Yembrick said the space station could do ‘a debris-avoidance manoeuvre if necessary.’

While the Russian communications array was ‘non-operational’, the Irridium device was part of a network of 66 low Earth orbiting satellites used to connect Irridium satellite phones.

Some types of buoys, such as those used for the tsunami warning system, also rely on Iridium satellites to communicate with their base.

The Communications firm Iridium, which is based in Bethesda, Maryland, said it was taking immediate action to minimize any loss of service.

‘This satellite loss may result in very limited service disruption in the form of brief, occasional outages,’ the firm said.

‘Within the next 30 days, Iridium expects to move one of its in-orbit spare satellites into the network constellation to permanently replace the lost satellite,’ a statement said.


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