The AP is reporting that two satellites just crashed about 800km above Siberia in the first-ever in-orbit collision of two spacecrafts.
“We knew this was going to happen eventually,” Johnson Space Centre orbital debris scientist Mark Matney told reporters, in what I imagine was the most Onion-esque quote from a NASA scientist this year.
One of the crafts was a 560kg Iridium communications satellite sent up in 1997, and the other was a 900kg Russian satellite launched in 1993 that was presumed to be nonfunctioning—and out of control. NASA is pinning the blame on the Russians.
They still don’t know how many pieces of debris were generated from this event, nor were they clear on how it would impact the ISS that’s floating at about half that orbital height. There’s a shuttle mission scheduled for Feb. 22, which may be delayed.
Previous collisions have involved discarded pieces and parts, apparently. This is the first time that two whole satellites have pulled off a no-loser chicken tourney. [AP]