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U.S., Russian Satellites Collide, Go Boom

Posted on Feb 11, 2009

A reproduction of Sputnik, the original satellite (unless you count the moon).

It’s getting crowded in space. A U.S. telecommunications satellite and a defunct Russian satellite smacked into each other in orbit over Siberia on Tuesday. According to NASA, no one was to blame for the unprecedented collision: “We don’t have an air traffic controller in space.”

What we do have in space, now, is roughly 600 pieces of former satellite that could pose a risk to other orbiting objects, including the International Space Station.

Thought experiment: Imagine if this had happened at the height of the Cold War.

CNET News via Engadget:

“It’s going to take a while” to get an accurate count of the debris fragments, [NASA’s chief scientist] said. “It’s very, very difficult to discriminate all those objects when they’re really close together. And so, over the next couple of days, we’ll have a much better understanding.”

Asked which satellite was at fault, Johnson said “they ran into each other. Nothing has the right of way up there. We don’t have an air traffic controller in space. There is no universal way of knowing what’s coming in your direction.”

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Leefeller's avatar

By Leefeller, February 12, 2009 at 4:31 pm Link to this comment

When I was a kid, I always remember a prestigious magazine had a section on hauling all our garbage and trash to the moon.  Is MAD Mag. still around?

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PatrickHenry's avatar

By PatrickHenry, February 12, 2009 at 4:20 pm Link to this comment

Time to build a major space station like in the movies.

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By Mark, February 12, 2009 at 10:42 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Per, the Iridium system cost Motorola and others $5 billion dollars to launch.

Then the bottom fell out. The phones were bulky, service was unreliable at the start, and the service charges were steep.

Motorola sold the system to its current owners, a Bethesda, Md. based LLC for $25 million. No, that’s not a typo.

Per the NY Times circa 2001, the deal was facilitated by a 2 year, $72 million contract for the new owner with the Dept. of Defense.

The DoD remains a loyal customer to this day.

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Leefeller's avatar

By Leefeller, February 12, 2009 at 9:07 am Link to this comment

Those darn Russians, blowing up our satellite over Siberia, what nerve.

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By Thomas Mc, February 12, 2009 at 9:03 am Link to this comment

“Collision”? Yeah right.
Russian satellites are built with self destruct devices, aka killer satellites. When in proximity to their target, they can be detonated to destroy both.

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Blackspeare's avatar

By Blackspeare, February 12, 2009 at 7:48 am Link to this comment

The collision was between a defunct Russian satellite and an Iridium communication satellite.  The Iridium satellite is one of a series of low altitude devices used for satellite phones mainly by the US military.  What is interesting is that the Iridium satellites were originally a precursor to Reagan’s SDI.

But not to worry there have been 3 or 4 other satellite collisons——no big deal really——space junk is being tracked.

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Leefeller's avatar

By Leefeller, February 12, 2009 at 6:54 am Link to this comment

Wait until the shit starts falling from the sky, Chicken Little may have had a point.  If I were king, my kingdom would send up hundreds of bowling balls, just for the hell of it.

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By hippy pam, February 12, 2009 at 6:17 am Link to this comment

I can see the headlines now…....

  XXXXXX[insert name] was struck and injured/killed by “space junk” as he/she stepped out the door to retrieve the morning newspaper….Friends and family state that she/he has been despondent since losing his/her job and insurance.The incident is being investigated in order to assign culpability.No suspects are in custody at this time.No suicide note was found at the scene…..

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skulz fontaine's avatar

By skulz fontaine, February 12, 2009 at 2:47 am Link to this comment

In space, no one can hear you scream “watch where you’re going!” And throwing some other driver the ‘finger’ while donned in a cramped space suit takes all the joy out of flipping some bonehead off for inadequate driving skills.

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Russian Paul's avatar

By Russian Paul, February 12, 2009 at 12:43 am Link to this comment

Well I hope this isn’t some sort of ominous harbinger of what’s to come - but it might be if US continues to cling to this foolish missile shield in Poland…and continues to try and NATOize all the former soviet states which are already almost all run by US puppets…

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