Russian satellite hit by ‘space junk’ from destroyed Chinese spacecraft

46edrussian spacecraft chinese satellite Russian satellite hit by ‘space junk’ from destroyed Chinese spacecraft

The collision took place between Russia’s Ball Lens in the Space(BLITS) spacecraft and China’s Fengyun 1C satellite, according tothe Center for Space Standards & Innovation (CSSI), based inColorado Springs, Colorado. The collision appears to have occurredon January 22, although it took over a month to determine whatexactly hit the craft.  The Chinese material is considered to be “space junk” left overfrom when the Chinese craft was destroyed in a 2007 anti-satellitedemonstration when the Fengyun 1C was intentionally demolishedafter exceeding its service life. The debris has posed a threat tosatellites and crewed spacecraft ever since, according toSpace.com.China’s anti-satellite defense program aims at destroyingsatellites in space with the help of a missile, if needed. “Itis necessary for China to have the ability to strike US satellites.This deterrent can provide strategic protection to Chinesesatellites and the whole country’s national security,” said aJanuary editorial in China’s state-run Global Times. China hassince then conducted another test, in 2010.The space collision involving BLITS was first reported on February4 by Russian scientists Vasiliy Yurasov and Andrew Nazarenko, ofthe Institute for Precision Instrument Engineering (IPIE) inMoscow. They reported a “significant change” in the orbit ofthe BLITS satellite to CSSI, as well as changes in the spacecraft’sspin velocity and altitude.”They requested help in determining whether these changes mighthave been the result of a collision with another object inorbit,” CSSI’s technical program manager, T.S. Kelso, explainedin a blog post on the Analytical Graphics, Inc. website, whichanalyzed the crash.On February 28, the International Laser Ranging Service (ILRS)confirmed the collision.“As a result, an abrupt change occurred to the BLITS orbitparameters (a decrease of the orbiting period),” ILRS officialssaid. The BLITS spin period changed from 5.6 seconds beforecollision to 2.1 seconds after collision. The craft alsoexperienced a sudden decrease of 120 meters in the semi-major axisof its orbit.While the BLITS satellite weighs 7.5kg, the weight of the piecethat struck it may only be around .08 grams. BLITS is aretroreflector demonstration satellite built for precisionsatellite laser-ranging experiments. It was launched in 2009 andexpected to last five years in space.It remains unclear whether the satellite is merely damaged orcompletely non-functioning.CSSI is continuing to search for answers regarding thecollision, such as whether the individual masses of the debrispieces can be determined, in order to assess how large a piecemight have come off the BLITS satellite.The collision marks the second time that an active spacecrafthas collided with another artificial object in space. In February2009, a US communications satellite was hit by a defunct Russianmilitary satellite, creating a large debris cloud in orbit.The threat of space debris to orbiting satellites and crewedspacecraft is a growing problem. According to NASA, the debriscloud surrounding the earth contains 500,000 objects bigger than amarble and 22,000 larger than a softball. The number of flecks atleast 1 millimeter in diameter likely runs into the hundreds ofmillions.

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Russian satellite hit by ‘space junk’ from destroyed Chinese spacecraft


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