Two communication satellites from the US and Russia collided in space on February 10, creating massive space debris that might pose a threat to the International Space Station, according to news released by the Associated Press on February 11.
The US National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) said this is the first satellite collision accident in the history of mankind. It occurred 500 miles (about 805 kilometers) above Siberia. The collision involved an Iridium commercial satellite, launched by the US in 1997, and a Russian satellite launched in 1993 that was believed to be nonfunctioning. Mark Matney, an orbital debris scientist at the Johnson Space Center in Houston, said the Russian satellite was out of control. ‘We knew this was going to happen eventually,’ he said.
As it is reported that the Iridium satellite weighed 1,235 pounds (about 560 kilograms) and the Russian satellite weighed 1 ton, it is estimated that the collision will generate a large amount of space debris, but currently details remain unknown. According to NASA, it will take several weeks time to judge the extent of damage caused by the accident.
NASA points out that since the International Space Station orbits 270 miles (434 kilometers) below the collision’s impact point, the accident’s threat to the space station and the three astronauts on board remains relatively low. It should also pose no threat to the Space Shuttle Discovery which is scheduled to be launched on February 22, but the US will re-evaluate the shuttle’s launch time.