Ritesh’s Technical Blog

2 big satellites collide 500 miles over Siberia

Posted on: February 12, 2009

Two big communicatio satellites collided in the first-ever crash of two intact spacecraft in orbit, shooting out a pair of massive debris clouds and posing a slight risk to the international space stion

NASA said it will take weeks to determine the full magnitude of the crash, which occurred nearly 500 miles over Siberia on Tuesday.

“We knew this was going to happen eventually,” said Mark Matney, an orbital debris scientist at Johnson Space Center in Houston.

NASA believes any risk to the space station and its three astronauts is low. It orbits about 270 miles below the collision course. There also should be no danger to the space shuttle set to launch with seven astronauts on Feb. 22, officials said, but that will be re-evaluated in the coming days.

The collision involved an Iridium commercial satellite, which was launched in 1997, and a Russian satellite launched in 1993 and believed to be nonfunctioning. The Russian satellite was out of control, Matney said.

The Iridium craft weighed 1,235 pounds, and the Russian craft nearly a ton.

No one has any idea yet how many pieces were generated or how big they might be.

“Right now, they’re definitely counting dozens,” Matney said. “I would suspect that they’ll be counting hundreds when the counting is done.”

As for pieces the size of micrometers, the count will likely be in the thousands, he added.

There have been four other cases in which space objects have collided accidentally in orbit, NASA said. But those were considered minor and involved parts of spent rockets or small satellites.

read complete story here

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