Friday, February 13, 2009

Unprecedented space collision

Two communication satellites collided in space. The collision occurred about 800 km over Siberia. An estimate of the extent of damage may take some weeks. The US Iridium commercial satellite weighing 560 kg (launched in 1997) orbiting at a speed of 40,000 kmph and a defunct Russian satellite Cosmos 2251 weighing nearly one ton (launched in 1993) collided with each other. Both the satellites were used for communication.

This collision is a risk to the International Space Station, the Hubble Space Telescope as well as the Earth-observing satellites. However, threat to the Space Station and its three astronauts is low as it orbits 430 km below the collision course. A new shuttle scheduled to be launched on February 22, 2009 also does not face any risk or threat from this collision though a continuous evaluation of the risks is being carried out.

The damaged Iridium US satellite was providing telephone access to 250,000 people. The Russian satellite was a defunct one and had no steering mechanism.

Though four earlier collisions in space were reported in the past, these were mostly minor, but the present one is a high-speed impact.

There are billions of debris of different dimensions are floating in the space as per the watchdog Space Security Index. Space debris in space is on the rise mainly because of deliberate breakup old satellites.

Source: Times of India

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