Feeds

Satellites crash over Siberia: Iridium bird destroyed

Orbital frag up by 3%: conspiracy theories, 100

Providing a secure and efficient Helpdesk

A defunct Russian satellite has collided in orbit with another from the Iridium satcomms fleet, according to reports. Both spacecraft were wrecked, creating two large clouds of hazardous high-speed debris. The International Space Station (ISS) is not thought to be in danger, however.

The Guardian quotes US air force colonel Les Kodlick as saying that the American military is tracking an additional 500 to 600 pieces of orbital debris as a result of the collision, adding to the 18,000 other objects already logged.

"We believe it's the first time that two satellites have collided in orbit," the colonel added.

The collision reportedly took place at 1655 GMT on Tuesday, at an altitude of 490 miles above Siberia.

The Russian satellite was a Cosmos telecoms bird launched in 1993 and no longer in service. The other sat dated from 1997 and was an active part of the Iridium network, which was originally intended to be the world's first global mobile phone system. However, GSM roaming beat Iridium to the punch and the network went bankrupt before being reborn with US government backing.

Iridium does have advantages over other satcomms systems, however, as it requires only a small antenna rather than a dish or other directional apparatus. It is critical to many specialist applications today - many of them involving the military and intelligence communities, perhaps giving a clue as to why the US government was so keen to revive the system.

The Iridium Satellite corporation told AFP that it expected only minor outages as a result of the collision.

"This satellite loss may result in very limited service disruption in the form of brief, occasional outages," the firm said, adding that the company expects to have a network solution in place by Friday, and will move one of its in-orbit spares to permanently replace the destroyed satellite within 30 days.

NASA officials said that the ISS was not thought to be in significant danger as it orbits at an altitude of 220 miles, well below that of the satellite wreckage clouds. Should any debris threaten the space station, it has the ability to manoeuvre so as to avoid being struck: this has already happened on eight occasions.

The event seems sure to provide excellent conspiracy-theory fodder at any rate. Just for starters, here's one: the Russians deliberately rammed the Iridium sat to prevent a particular satphone call/tracker-bug message/submarine data upload getting through.®

Internet Security Threat Report 2014

More from The Register

next story
MARS NEEDS WOMEN, claims NASA pseudo 'naut: They eat less
'Some might find this idea offensive' boffin admits
LOHAN crash lands on CNN
Overflies Die Welt en route to lively US news vid
Experts brand LOHAN's squeaky-clean box
Phytosanitary treatment renders Vulture 2 crate fit for export
No sail: NASA spikes Sunjammer
'Solar sail' demonstrator project binned
Carry On Cosmonaut: Willful Child is a poor taste Star Trek parody
Cringeworthy, crude and crass jokes abound in Steven Erikson’s sci-fi debut
Origins of SEXUAL INTERCOURSE fished out of SCOTTISH LAKE
Fossil find proves it first happened 385 million years ago
Human spacecraft dodge COMET CHUNKS pelting off Mars
Odyssey orbiter yet to report, though - comet's trailing trash poses new threat
You can crunch it all you like, but the answer is NOT always in the data
Hear that, 'data journalists'? Our analytics prof holds forth
prev story

Whitepapers

Forging a new future with identity relationship management
Learn about ForgeRock's next generation IRM platform and how it is designed to empower CEOS's and enterprises to engage with consumers.
Why and how to choose the right cloud vendor
The benefits of cloud-based storage in your processes. Eliminate onsite, disk-based backup and archiving in favor of cloud-based data protection.
Three 1TB solid state scorchers up for grabs
Big SSDs can be expensive but think big and think free because you could be the lucky winner of one of three 1TB Samsung SSD 840 EVO drives that we’re giving away worth over £300 apiece.
Reg Reader Research: SaaS based Email and Office Productivity Tools
Read this Reg reader report which provides advice and guidance for SMBs towards the use of SaaS based email and Office productivity tools.
Security for virtualized datacentres
Legacy security solutions are inefficient due to the architectural differences between physical and virtual environments.