Friday, February 13, 2009

Iridium communications satellite destroyed after collision

A commercial Iridium communications satellite and decommissioned Russian satellite both appear to have been destroyed after an unprecedented collision in space. The collision took place on Tuesday and was verified by U.S. government organizations that track satellites and other orbits. The in-orbit collision will mean brief service outages for some customers over the next few days but Iridium said it expects to have the issue largely resolved by Friday. Within a month, the company expects to have one of a number of in-orbit spare satellites moved into position to replace the one that was lost.

Iridium communication satellite

AFP has reported that he incident was confirmed by Major General Alexander Yakushin, the head of the Russian space industry who said: "A collision occurred between an Iridium 33 satellite and a Russian Kosmos 2251 military satellite." Iridium has already denied that it was at fault for the incident and in a statement described it as a, "extremely unusual, very low-probability event".

The Iridium satellite was one of 66 orbiting the earth, provide mobile phone communications but the company said that its services would not be affected as it "is uniquely designed to withstand such an event, and the company is taking the necessary steps to replace the lost satellite with one of its in-orbit spare satellites."

The incident occurred approximately 500 miles above Siberia, and above the orbit of the International Space Station. However, NASA has already said that it does not believe the incident poses any risk to the ISS and does not believe it will delay the launch of the Discovery space shuttle flight that’s scheduled for 22 February.

While space detritus does collide occasionally, it is the first time that two satellites have crashed. "We knew this was going to happen eventually," Mark Matney, an orbital debris scientist at Johnson Space Center in Houston is reported to have said.

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