Russian satellite breaks up, sends nearly 200 pieces of space debris into orbit

Russian satellite breaks up, sends nearly 200 pieces of space debris into orbit

A Russian satellite has broken up into at least 180 pieces of debris in space, forcing a NASA crew to temporarily shelter in place at the International Space Station, U.S. officials say. The observation satellite RESURS-P1 Russian Earth, operated by Russia's space agency Roscosmos and declared dead in 2022, shattered in low-Earth orbit around noon E.T. on Wednesday, according to U.S. Space Command. Space Command "has observed no threats" and is continuing to make assessments "to support the safety and sustainability of the space domain." The agency did not specify what could have caused the breakup and Roscosmos has not responded to USA TODAY's request for comment.

NASA crew shelter in spacecraft for an hour

The debris from the satellite breakup led to NASA crew on aboard the space station to shelter in their respective spacecraft for an hour as a precaution. Throughout that hour, Mission Control monitored the path of the debris before allowing the crew to exit and resume their operations, NASA wrote on X, formerly Twitter. Radars detected over at least 180 pieces of debris from the incident, U.S. space-tracking firm LeoLabs confirmed Thursday. "We expect this number to increase in the coming days. We are actively analyzing the debris cloud to characterize it, identify a potential cause, and estimate the impact," LeoLabs wrote on X.

Debris in space could impact internet, communication

The addition of large debris in space can threaten satellite networks that are essential on Earth including internet use, communications and even navigation services. Also known as space junk, the pieces of non-operational satellites and other human-made objects can hurtle around Earth's orbit even after they stopped being operational. The European Space Agency warned that multiplying detritus and subsequent cascade of collisions could make Earth's orbit unusable for space travel in a theoretical scenario known as the Kessler Syndrome. In 2021, Russia was responsible for a blast that added thousands of orbital debris pieces. This occurred when a defunct satellite struck one of its ground-based anti-satellite missiles launched from Plesetsk rocket site. In 2009, two satellites collided over Siberia adding far more more debris into space, according to an American Scientist report that year. Source


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