Two big communications satellites collided in the first-ever crash of its kind 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.One of the objects involved was an active satellite operated by Iridium Holdings LLC. The other is believed to have been a defunct Russian satellite. The crash generated additional "space junk," the extent of which scientists are studying.
"We knew this was going to happen eventually," said Mark Matney, an orbital debris scientist at Johnson Space Center in Houston.
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.Are you at all concerned about this? Is the problem of space pollution too far removed from the never-ending problems we have right here on Earth? Do you think we're doing the same thing in space that we've always done on the Earth, environmentally?
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.
The article said the Iridium Company has 65 satellites orbiting the planet, including "eight in-orbit spares," from which a replacement will be selected. It's cute how this mega-company refers to their fleet of satellites as a "constellation."
"The Iridium constellation is healthy, and this event is not the result of a failure on the part of Iridium or its technology," the company said in a statement.Wikipedia adds this: "The SSN [Space Surveillance Network] currently tracks more than 8,000 man-made orbiting objects."
Does any of that bother you?