Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Satellites collide in space

For the first time, two intact spacecraft have accidentally run into each other in space.

Report: Two space satellites smashed into each other on Tuesday in an unprecedented orbital accident. Government agencies are still assessing the collision aftermath, but early radar measurements have detected hundreds of pieces of debris that could pose a risk to other spacecraft.

As first reported by CBS News, a defunct Russian Cosmos satellite and a communication satellite owned by the US firm Iridium collided some 790 kilometres above northern Siberia on Tuesday.

The NASA office, which detects and tracks debris measuring less than 10 centimetres across, has just begun its assessment of the damage, Johnson told New Scientist.

The two craft were moving in almost perpendicular directions when they collided, and the extent of the damage will become clearer as the debris from the two satellites spreads out, Johnson says. According to Iridium documents, such satellites orbit at speeds of more than 25,000 kilometres per hour.

Most of the debris is expected to stay in orbit for years.


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