[Editor's note: Last week's collision of two satellites added to a growing list of "junk" polluting the envelope around our planet with the flotsam and jetsam of our satellite-dependent civilization. The rubbish is increasingly a hazard for human spaceflight and has put important equipment such as the Hubble Space Telescope and communications satellites at risk of being struck by an object moving at hypervelocity. This graphic from Patterson Clark shows where the collision occurred in relation to important platforms.]
Republished from The Washington Post.
Originally published: 13 February 2009.
Graphic by Patterson Clark.
Two satellites smashed together Tuesday, creating a spreading cloud of space junk that slightly increases the chance that other spacecraft could be damaged by the debris.
Related article from Wired: Lost in Space: 8 Weird Pieces of Space Junk
Related article: Satellite Collision Adds to ‘Space Junk’ Problem
Washington Post Staff Writer
Saturday, February 14, 2009; Page A03
Satellite 33442 orbits Earth every 91 minutes, circling at an inclination of 56.1 degrees to the equator and gradually slowing down, destined to fall into the atmosphere in late spring or summer and burn up. Aficionados of satellites know that 33442 is a tool bag. A spacewalking astronaut let it slip last year, adding one more tiny, artificial moon to the junk in low Earth orbit.
The military has a running catalog of more than 19,000 pieces of orbital debris. This week, the census of space schmutz suddenly jumped by 600 — the initial estimate of the number of fragments from Tuesday’s stunning collision of two satellites high above Siberia.
Space is now polluted with the flotsam and jetsam of a satellite-dependent civilization. The rubbish is increasingly a hazard for human spaceflight and has put important equipment such as the Hubble Space Telescope and communications satellites at risk of being struck by an object moving at hypervelocity.