Two satellites collide in orbit

Hans-Georg's picture
Sun, 2009-02-22 08:41 by Hans-Georg
The Iridium 33/Cosmos 2251 collision has added to the orbital debris environment in low Earth orbit; how could it happened? (credit: AGI, published in The Space Review) An artist's concept of an Iridium satellite orbiting the Earth. Photo: Iridium Sketch of the Iridium satellite design

By William Harwood
Story written for CBS News "Space Place" & used with permission
Posted: February 11, 2009;
Updated @ 5 p.m. with Iridium statement;
Updated @ 5:45 p.m. with STRATCOM interview

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In an unprecedented space collision, a commercial Iridium communications satellite and a defunct Russian satellite ran into each other Tuesday [2009-02-10 16:56 UTC] above northern Siberia, creating a cloud of wreckage, officials said today.

The international space station does not appear to be threatened by the debris, they said, but it's not yet clear whether it poses a risk to any other military or civilian satellites.

"They collided at an altitude of 790 kilometers (491 miles) over northern Siberia Tuesday about noon Washington time," said Nicholas Johnson, NASA's chief scientist for orbital debris at the Johnson Space Center in Houston. "The U.S. space surveillance network detected a large number of debris from both objects."

Air Force Brig. Gen. Michael Carey, deputy director of global operations with U.S. Strategic Command, the agency responsible for space surveillance, said initial radar tracking detected some 600 pieces of debris. He identified the Russian spacecraft as Cosmos 2251, a communications relay station launched in June 1993, and said the satellite is believed to have been non-operational for the past 10 years or so. …

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