February 12, 2009--
The first publicly known satellite collision created a cloud of debris that could threaten the safety of other orbiting objects, space officials confirmed yesterday.
A privately owned U.S. Iridium satellite collided with the Russian military's defunct Cosmos 2251 satellite (shown in an undated photo) over northern Siberia on Tuesday just before noon, eastern time. The 1,234-pound (560-kilogram) Iridium satellite was part of a network that provides mobile voice and communications capability worldwide.
The 1,984-pound (900-kilogram) Cosmos satellite was also a communications device, but it had been retired for about ten years and was considered space junk
"This is the first time we've ever had two intact spacecraft accidentally run into each other," Nicholas Johnson, chief scientist of NASA's Orbital Debris Program Office at the Johnson Space Center in Houston, told Space.com. "It was a bad day for both of them."
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Photograph courtesy Reshetnev