Experts call collision of orbiting US and Russian satellites "catastropic"

What more is there to say than this?

Apparently, there is only “little risk” to the international space station — not no risk, just a little one.

Remember the fuss about space debris when China deliberately shot down one of its “weather” satellites (apparently to try to focus attention on China’s belief that it is urgent to negotiate a new disarmament treaty? [See our earlier posts here, and here.]

AP reported that “Russian Mission Control chief Vladimir Solovyov said Tuesday’s smashup of a derelict Russian military satellite and a working U.S. Iridium commercial satellite occurred in the busiest part of near-Earth space — some 500 miles (800 kilometers) above Earth. ‘800 kilometers is a very popular orbit which is used by Earth-tracking and communications satellites’, Solovyov told reporters Friday. ‘The clouds of debris pose a serious danger to them’. Solovyov said debris from the collision could stay in orbit for up to 10,000 years and even tiny fragments threaten spacecraft because both travel at such a high orbiting speed.
“James Oberg, a NASA veteran who is now space consultant, described the crash over northern Siberia as ‘catastrophic event’. NASA said it was the first-ever high-speed impact between two intact spacecraft — with the Iridium craft weighing 1,235 pounds (560 kilograms) and the Russian craft nearly a ton. At physical contact at orbital speeds, a hypersonic shock wave bursts outwards through the structures’, Oberg said in e-mailed comments. ‘It literally shreds the material into confetti and detonates any fuels’.
“Most fragments are concentrated near the collision course, but Maj.-Gen. Alexander Yakushin, chief of staff of the Russian military’s Space Forces, said some debris was thrown into other orbits, ranging from 300 to 800 miles (500-1,300 kilometers) above Earth.
“David Wright at the Union of Concerned Scientists’ Global Security said the collision had possibly generated tens of thousands of particles larger than 1 centimeter (half an inch), any of which could significantly damage or even destroy a satellite. Wright, in a posting on the group’s Web site, said the two large debris clouds from Tuesday’s crash will spread over time, forming a shell around Earth. He likened the debris to ‘a shotgun blast that threatens other satellites in the region’

“In January 2007, China destroyed one of its own defunct satellites with a ballistic missile at an altitude close to that of Tuesday’s collision, creating thousands of pieces of debris which threatened other spacecraft.
“Both NASA and Russia’s Roscosmos agencies said there was little risk to the international space station, which orbits 230 miles (370 kilometers) above Earth, far below the collision point”…

This report can be read in full here.

2 thoughts on “Experts call collision of orbiting US and Russian satellites "catastropic"”

  1. Um, yeah, Tony Blair has apparently just won a $1m leadership prize. Not exactly space debris…
    Further remarks are made in comments to the later post, “A winning formula – withhold salaries in the West Bank to pay for damaged homes in Gaza?”

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