Microkhan by Brendan I. Koerner

Space Carnage

February 11th, 2009 · No Comments

spacetrafficViolent yuckiness in the skies above Siberia. This sort of collision will become slightly more common as older satellites go “rogue” due to neglect. You can bet that companies such as Sirius and EchoStar are double-checking their disaster plans tonight.

This may be history’s only satellite-on-satellite mashup, but there have been other accidents in orbit. The first occurred on July 21, 1996, when the French CERISE satellite collided with debris from an Ariane 1 rocket that had launched a decade earlier. The debris was traveling 2,23231,694 miles per hour(!) at the moment of impact; amazingly, CERISE’s operators were eventually able to regain control of the satellite.

At some point, though, the debris is going to win. Good thing our species only inhabits a relatively small fraction of the Earth’s surface.

(Graphic of celestial traffic from the European Space Agency)

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