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Friday, February 13, 2009

 

Satellite Smash!

The worst fears of the satellite community have been realised. Two satellites, Kosmos 2251 and Iridium 33 crashed into each other approximately 800 km over northern Siberia. How this happened is unclear as the orbits of these satellites were pretty well known, and there should have been time to move the Iridium satellite. Still, it happened, both satellites were destroyed, and now there is a bunch of debris around 800 kilometres up.

SpaceWeather has the story, a great animation of the collision (2.3 Mb), and a link to the sound of radar pings off the debris. Real Time Satellite Tracking also has a nice animation. The Bad Astronomer discusses the maths of the collision here and here.

Over at meteorobs everyone is discussion whether the impact will result in re-entries with visible fireballs. Despite being at around 800 Km, studies of the FENGYUG 1 debris from the Chinese anti-satellite impact suggest that there may be a slow but steady rain of material over the years (about 10 Kg of material over 10 years, maybe the occasional fireball, but not a spectacular rain of fireballs).

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