by Staff Writers
Moscow (Voice of Russia) Mar 12, 2013
A small Russian spacecraft in orbit appears to have been struck by remnants of a destroyed Chinese satellite. It's just the second time in history that an active spacecraft has collided with an artificial object while in orbit.
The collision took place between Russia's Ball Lens in the Space (BLITS) spacecraft and China's Fengyun 1C satellite, according to the Center for Space Standards and Innovation (CSSI), based in Colorado Springs, Colorado. The collision appears to have occurred on January 22, although it took over a month to determine what exactly hit the craft.
The Chinese material is considered to be "space junk" left over from when the Chinese craft was destroyed in a 2007 anti-satellite demonstration when the Fengyun 1C was intentionally demolished after exceeding its service life. The debris has posed a threat to satellites and crewed spacecraft ever since, according to Space.com.
The space collision involving BLITS was first reported on February 4 by Russian scientists Vasiliy Yurasov and Andrew Nazarenko, of the Institute for Precision Instrument Engineering (IPIE) in Moscow. They reported a "significant change" in the orbit of the BLITS satellite to CSSI, as well as changes in the spacecraft's spin velocity and altitude.
"As a result, an abrupt change occurred to the BLITS orbit parameters (a decrease of the orbiting period)," ILRS officials said. The BLITS spin period changed from 5.6 seconds before collision to 2.1 seconds after collision. The craft also experienced a sudden decrease of 120 meters in the semi-major axis of its orbit.
While the BLITS satellite weighs 7.5kg, the weight of the piece that struck it may only be around .08 grams. BLITS is a retroreflector demonstration satellite built for precision satellite laser-ranging experiments. It was launched in 2009 and expected to last five years in space.
It remains unclear whether the satellite is merely damaged or completely non-functioning.
The collision marks the second time that an active spacecraft has collided with another artificial object in space. In February 2009, a US communications satellite was hit by a defunct Russian military satellite, creating a large debris cloud in orbit.
Source: Voice of Russia
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