Chinese space junk collides with Russian satellite

Mar 11, 2013

While outer space is vast with distances that are hard for the human mind to comprehend, the space around our planet is becoming quite crowded. There are approximately 900 satellites in orbit around the Earth today and untold amounts of orbiting space junk and debris. The space junk and debris includes things such as defunct satellites, small parts from spacecraft, and satellites that have been purposely destroyed or exploded accidentally.

About six weeks ago, a small Russian satellite was apparently destroyed when it collided with orbiting space junk created when the Chinese destroyed a satellite in orbit in 2007 using an experimental anti-satellite weapon. The Russian satellite that was destroyed by the Chinese junk was the Ball Lens In The Space or BLITS satellite.

The collision that destroyed the satellite likely occurred on January 22. According to scientists, this is the fourth known collision of an active satellite with orbiting debris. Scientists report that collisions with orbiting debris and satellites occurred in 1996, 2007, and 2009. The accident in 2009 occurred when a nonfunctional Russian military satellite collided with a United States telecommunications satellite.

One of the biggest debris producing events that ever occurred happened in 2007 when the Chinese destroyed an orbiting satellite creating about 3000 pieces of orbiting space junk. NASA estimates that the orbiting cloud of debris surrounding the area contains about 500,000 objects bigger than a marble and 22,000 larger than a softball. NASA believes that in orbit around the planet are hundreds of millions of small pieces of junk at least 1 mm in diameter. Even these tiny pieces can seriously damage satellites or even the International Space Station because they orbit at about 17,500 mph.


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