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Satellite Collision

February 13, 2009

MOSCOW — The collision of U.S. and Russian communication satellites Tuesday has created speeding clouds of debris that threaten other unmanned spacecraft in nearby orbits, Russian officials and experts said Thursday.

The smashup 500 miles over Siberia involved a derelict Russian spacecraft designed for military communications and a working U.S. Iridium satellite. The collision scattered space debris in orbits 300 to 800 miles above Earth, aNASA said it would take weeks to know the full magnitude of the crash, but both NASA and Russia’s Roscosmos agencies said there was little risk to the international space station and its three crew members.

The space junk also poses no threat to the space shuttle set to launch Feb. 22, U.S. officials said.

Iridium satellites orbit low and move fast. Most communications satellites are in much higher orbits and don’t move relative to each other, so collisions are rare.

IBD – 13 Feb. 09

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