Demons & Dialog

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Space Debris Rains Down On Kentucky Causing Alarm

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Posted: 14 Feb 2009 01:07 AM PST

The crash of two satellites 500 miles over Sibera has caused alarm in Kentucky. The collision generated an estimated tens of thousands of pieces of space junk that could circle Earth and threaten other satellites for the next 10,000 years, space experts said Friday. Several of those chunks caused concern in Southeastern Kenutcky Friday night.

The 27 NEWSFIRST Newsroom checked into numerous reports of sightings of blue and white lights in the sky, as well as loud booms that, in some cases, rattled homes. So far, emergency officials in Kentucky believe the falling debris from the satellites has covered a 500-mile area in North America, but has led to no injuries or damages.

One expert called the collision “a catastrophic event” that he hoped would force President Barack Obama’s administration to address the long-ignored issue of debris in space. Russian Mission Control chief Vladimir Solovyov said Tuesday’s smashup of a derelict Russian military satellite and a working U.S. Iridium commercial satellite occurred in the busiest part of near-Earth space – some 500 miles 800 kilometers above Earth.

“800 kilometers is a very popular orbit which is used by Earth-tracking and communications satellites,” Solovyov told reporters Friday. “The clouds of debris pose a serious danger to them.” Solovyov said debris from the collision could stay in orbit for up to 10,000 years and even tiny fragments threaten spacecraft because both travel at such a high orbiting speed.

James Oberg, an experienced aerospace engineer who worked on NASA’s space shuttle program and is now a space consultant, described the crash over northern Siberia as “catastrophic event.” NASA said it was the first-ever high-speed impact between two intact spacecraft – with the Iridium craft weighing 1,235 pounds 560 kilograms and the Russian craft nearly a ton.

“At physical contact at orbital speeds, a hypersonic shock wave bursts outwards through the structures,” Oberg said in e-mailed comments. “It literally shreds the material into confetti and detonates any fuels.”

Most fragments are concentrated near the collision course, but Maj.-Gen. Alexander Yakushin, chief of staff of the Russian military’s Space Forces, said some debris was thrown into other orbits, ranging from 300 to 800 miles 500-1,300 kilometers above Earth.

David Wright at the Union of Concerned Scientists’ Global Security said the collision had possibly generated tens of thousands of particles larger than 1 centimeter half an inch, any of which could significantly damage or even destroy a satellite.

Wright, in a posting on the group’s Web site, said the two large debris clouds from Tuesday’s crash will spread over time, forming a shell around Earth. He likened the debris to “a shotgun blast that threatens other satellites in the region.”

Meanwhile, there’s no global air traffic control system that tracks the position of all satellites.

via Source

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Written by Michael Cooper

February 15, 2009 at 5:36 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

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