Iridium Satellite vs. Russian satellite

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PostWed Feb 11, 2009 11:54 pm » by Towelie


A commercial Iridium communications satellite collided with a Russian satellite or satellite fragment, Tuesday, creating a cloud of wreckage in low-Earth orbit, officials said Wednesday. The international space station is not threatened by the debris, they said, but it's not yet clear whether it poses a risk to any other satellites in similar orbits. "Everybody is saying the risk is minimal to NASA assets," said an agency manager who asked not to be identified. Once source said U.S. Space Command was tracking about 280 pieces of debris, most of it from the defunct Russian satellite. A spokesman for U.S. Space Command was not aware of the incident but he said he would try to track down additional details. Calls to Iridium Satellite LLC were not immediately returned. Iridium operates a constellation of some 66 satellites, along with orbital spares, to support satellite telephone operations around the world. The spacecraft are in orbits tilted 86.4 degrees to the equator at an altitude of about 485 miles. The space station circles the globe at an altitude of about 215 miles in an orbit tilted 51.6 degrees to the equator. Other civilian science satellites operate in polar orbits similar to Iridium's and presumably could face an increased risk as a result of the collision. But again, details were not immediately available.
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PostThu Feb 12, 2009 3:08 am » by Roger


strange that they can track all the pieces of debris , but they can't prevent 2 satellites from colliding. Or perhaps it was a spy satellite... :ghost:
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PostThu Feb 12, 2009 3:18 am » by Spock


When these things blow up - they scatter in an orbital projection.

They are pieces of shrapnel, high above the Earth.

When ANYONE launches rockets, they launch into the orbit of the Earth. Therefore, once in the NEO the projectile is traveling at close the speed of the debris. It can be catastrophic - but not as likely as we are being told.

Imagine exploding a car in the woods behind your house, and stating to your neighbors, the debris will be a constant threat to your city.

There has been tons of debris in our orbit before we ever put satellites up.

This is a nice, believable, preemptive, cover story for a space assault. Which I'm all for actually.

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PostThu Feb 12, 2009 6:37 pm » by Towelie


I wonder if this was deliberate, itll not be the first time this type of thing has been done, use an old satelite or something to take out a new one(i think it was the Chinese that did it last time.)
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PostThu Feb 12, 2009 8:21 pm » by Towelie


Situation update from RSOE EDIS.
Two big communications 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 station. 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. Nicholas Johnson, an orbital debris expert at the Houston space center, said the risk of damage from Tuesday's collision is greater for the Hubble Space Telescope and Earth-observing satellites, which are in higher orbit and nearer the debris field. At the beginning of this year there were roughly 17,000 pieces of manmade debris orbiting Earth, Johnson said. The items, at least 4 inches in size, are being tracked by the U.S. Space Surveillance Network, which is operated by the military. The network detected the two debris clouds created Tuesday. Litter in orbit has increased in recent years, in part because of the deliberate breakups of old satellites. It's gotten so bad that orbital debris is now the biggest threat to a space shuttle in flight, surpassing the dangers of liftoff and return to Earth. NASA is in regular touch with the Space Surveillance Network, to keep the space station a safe distance from any encroaching objects, and shuttles, too, when they're flying. "The collisions are going to be becoming more and more important in the coming decades," Matney said.

Iridium Holdings LLC has a system of 65 active satellites which relay calls from portable phones that are about twice the size of a regular mobile phone. It has more than 300,000 subscribers. The U.S. Department of Defense is one of its largest customers. The company has spare satellites, and it is unclear whether the collision caused an outage. An Iridium spokeswoman had no immediate comment. Initially launched by Motorola Inc. in the 1990s, Iridium plunged into bankruptcy in 1999. Private investors relaunched service in 2001.
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