Big Bang Reduces Satellites to Space Debris
Byline: David Derbyshire Environment Editor
TWO satellites have collided in space 500 miles above Siberia.
A U.S. communications satellite crashed into a defunct Russian military probe at speeds of at least 15,000mph, Nasa said.
Both craft, which were in an orbit used heavily by spacecraft, smashed into tiny pieces in Tuesday's collision.
This created a cloud of debris that threatens other spacecraft, including the manned International Space Station.
Last night officials were tracking the tiny fragments of metal and plastic, as experts warned that our skies have become dangerously overcrowded.
Nasa said the risk to the three astronauts on board the International Space Station was 'low' and played down threats to the launch of a shuttle with seven crew planned for later this month. But officials admitted that the debris could endanger the Hubble Telescope and satellites observing Earth.
'We believe it's the first time that two satellites have collided in orbit,' said Air Force Colonel Les Kodlick, of the U.S. Strategic Command.
The Russians also played down the danger. Major-General Alexander Yakushin, of the country's Space Forces, said: 'The collision of these two space apparatuses happened by chance and these two apparatuses have been destroyed.
The fragments pose no danger to Russian space objects.'
Both satellites were in polar orbits, circling the Earth every two hours, and passing close to the Poles.
The Iridium craft, launched in 1997, was one of 66 providing satellite telephone links to about 250,000 men and women.
The U.S. company said its loss was causing brief gaps in its satellite phone service but it expected to have the problem fixed today and to replace the lost satellite within 30 days, with one of eight spares in orbit. …