Thursday, February 12, 2009

US Iridium 33 (Ir #77) & Russian Cosmos 2251

Welcome to the Weapons Arsenal of the Invisible Inter Galactic Cosmic Audit Committee
(My Tongue is in My Cheek)

This Story deserves a mention in this blog because of what Iridium (33) really is (Ir Atomic# 77) and the original goal of the 7/7 London Bombings Blog. I sincerely apologize for some of the contradictions in this post, about this collision. It's all thanks to referring to multiple Media Reports, some of which don't know all of the real facts and/or don't choose the most reliable source(s).

'They ran into each other. Nothing has the right of way up there. We don't have an Air Traffic Controller in space'.

According to an e-mail alert issued by NASA, Russia's Cosmos satellite slammed into the US Iridium craft at 11:55 a.m. EST (0455 GMT) on Tuesday 10 February 2009, over Siberia at an altitude of 490 miles (790 km) and directly above the International Space Station. The first hint of the collision came when Iridium officials contacted a U.S. Strategic Command support office to report that they had lost contact with one of their satellites. Shortly afterwards the space surveillance center reported that they had observed multiple new objects in low orbit.

Mark Matney, an orbital debris scientist at Johnson Space Center, Houston, said: 'We knew this was going to happen eventually.' 'The collisions are going to become more and more important in the coming decades.'

American Iridium 33 (NORAD ID 24946 – Weight 1,433lb or 1,234lb/560kg) communications satellite, launched in 1997, which had been reported by Iridium to be operational.

Russian Cosmos 2251 (NORAD ID 22675 – Weight 2,094lb or 1,984lb/900kg) communications relay satellite, launched in 1993 and presumed non-operational. It does not have a manoeuvring system according to NASA.

The incident was observed by the U.S. Defense Department's Space Surveillance Network, which later was tracking two large clouds of debris.

NASA is now monitoring a cloud of debris produced by the impact made up of more than 600 pieces. "This is the first time we've ever had two intact spacecraft accidentally run into each other," said Nicholas Johnson, chief scientist of NASA's Orbital Debris Program Office at the Johnson Space Center in Houston. "It was a bad day for both of them."

Around 6,000 satellites have been sent into orbit since 1957 with approximately 3,000 currently operational.

Outdated spacecraft, rocket stages and other components break apart in space every year, but there have only been three relatively minor collisions between such objects in the last 20 years.

Scientists are currently tracking 13,000 pieces of debris which are tennis ball-sized or bigger, in orbit around the Earth. In total there is some 12.1million lb of man-made rubbish whizzing around the planet.

NASA's orbital debris experts are also assessing the threat to other spacecraft. The agency's Earth Observing System satellites, which orbit at 438 miles (705 km), "are of highest interest for immediate consideration,"

The U.S. Space Surveillance Network continuously tracks more than 18,000 separate man-made objects and debris at any given time.

The space station flies at an altitude of about 220 miles (354 km), well below the impact point between the Russian and U.S. satellites 490 miles (790 km) up. Only a very minor portion of debris from the two clouds is expected to descend across the space station's orbital path.

NASA spokesman John Yembrick said the International Space Station could do 'a debris-avoidance manoeuvre if necessary.' Most of the debris from the crash will eventually burn up in the Earth's atmosphere.

There is deemed to be no risk to a shuttle launch scheduled for February 22. Seven astronauts will be on board.

Space junk is now considered the biggest threat to a space shuttle.

Last month, the nascent Eutelsat W2M telecommunications satellite failed in orbit just five weeks after it launched into space.

Another communications satellite, ASTRA 5A owned by SES Luxemburg, also failed and was adrift in orbit. The loss forced its operators to warn the owners of neighboring satellites to be prepared for the remote possibility of having to maneuver their spacecraft to avoid a collision with Astra 5A.

NASA's Orbital Debris Program Office also released an update last month on Russia's Soviet-era satellite Cosmos 1818 stating that the spacecraft appeared to spew a cloud of debris on July 4 (Independence Day), 2008 that may be the result of leaking reactor coolant from a debris strike or fragmentation.

China intentionally destroyed one of its ageing weather satellites on 11 January 2007. This event has left about 2,500 pieces of debris in the Earth's orbit.

The United States used a missile from a Navy warship to explode a tank of toxic fuel on a crippled U.S. spy satellite in February 2008.

Some types of buoys, such as those used for the tsunami warning system, use Iridium satellites to communicate with their base.

Iridium is the chemical element with atomic number 77, and is represented by the symbol Ir. A very hard, brittle, silvery-white transition metal of the platinum family, iridium is the second densest element and is the most corrosion-resistant metal, even at temperatures as high as 2000 °C.

The Iridium satellite constellation is a system of 66 active communication satellites with spares in orbit and on the ground. It allows worldwide voice and data communications using hand held satellite phones. The Iridium network is unique in that it covers the whole earth, including poles, oceans and airways.

The company, based in Bethesda, Maryland, derives its name from the chemical element iridium. The number of satellites projected in the early stages of planning was 77, the atomic number of iridium, evoking the metaphor of 77 electrons orbiting the nucleus. Iridium communications service was launched on November 1, 1998.

The first Iridium call was made by then-Vice President of the United States Al Gore. Motorola provided the technology and major financial backing.

In a prepared statement, the Bethesda, Md.-based Iridium characterized the incident as a "very low probability event" and said it was taking immediate action to minimize any loss of service. Iridium, which operates a constellation of 66 low Earth orbiting satellites providing mobile voice and data communications globally, said its system remains healthy and that it would implement a "network solution" by Friday.

'Within the next 30 days, Iridium expects to move one of its in-orbit spare satellites into the network constellation to permanently replace the lost satellite,' a statement said.


U.S. Satellite Destroyed in Space Collision - 11 February 2009 – Space.Com
U.S. and Russian Satellites Collide Sending a Cloud of Hazardous Debris Hurtling Around Earth at 25,000mph – 12 February 2009 – Daily Mail (UK)
U.S., Russia: A Mysterious Satellite Collision – 12 February 2009 - Stratfor Global Intelligence
Iridium Satellite (Wikipedia)
Iridium (Wikipedia)

Standard Periodic Table - Back To School Chemistry Buffs!

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