Space Debris

WASHINGTON, February 12, 2009 (AFP) – Two satellites collided in space hundreds of miles (kilometers) above Earth, destroying an Iridium commercial satellite in a crash that may result in disruption of service, the US company said Wednesday. “This satellite loss may result in very limited service disruption in the form of brief, occasional outages,” it said, adding that the company expects to implement a network solution by Friday.

The Bethesda, Maryland-based company said it “lost an operational satellite” after it was struck Tuesday by a spent Russian satellite, in what is being considered one of the first major collisions of its kind in space.

“While this is an extremely unusual, very low-probability event, the Iridium constellation is uniquely designed to withstand such an event, and the company is taking the necessary steps to replace the lost satellite with one of its in-orbit spare satellites,” the company said in a statement.

The privately-held Iridium Satellite, which says its network comprises 66 communication satellites plus in-orbit spares, stressed the accident was not the result of a failure of technology on the company’s fault.