back to article Satellites crash over Siberia: Iridium bird destroyed

A defunct Russian satellite has collided in orbit with another from the Iridium satcomms fleet, according to reports. Both spacecraft were wrecked, creating two large clouds of hazardous high-speed debris. The International Space Station (ISS) is not thought to be in danger, however. The Guardian quotes US air force colonel …


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  1. Anonymous Coward

    Independance Day

    This is how the alien fleet begins it's attack, swallowing up most of our communications satellites, and embedding their own signal in the remainder. YOU HAVE BEEN WARNED !

    Personally, I welcome our new satellite-munching overlords.

  2. Joe K

    Orbiting house of cards

    Judging from how widespread the debris from the Chinese sat-killer missile spread around the earth ( having another cloud blanket us is worrysome.

    Can't be long before the chain reactions start.

  3. Anonymous Coward
    Black Helicopters

    Ah - Ha !

    "here's one: the Russians deliberately rammed the Iridium sat to prevent a particular satphone call/tracker-bug message/submarine data upload getting through"

    Well you don't think Putin will let himself get caught commissioning another ABBA concert do you ?

  4. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    a cure for crappy global warming?

    "the Russians deliberately rammed the Iridium sat to prevent a particular satphone call/tracker-bug message/submarine data upload getting through" That's a fact, isn't it?!

    With all those rubbish orbiting earth we shouldn't too much worry about global warming. Just crash another few satellites and the debris will darken the sun sufficiently for the next ice age to emerge. (And yes, I believe global warming is equally a problem as all-threatening terrorism isn't.)

    anon, so the debris falling on earth won't find me and neither will warmth and terrorists.

  5. Anonymous Coward
    Paris Hilton

    Another one

    This is part of the New World Order's clandestine attempt to create a Dyson sphere surrounding the Earth, one satellite at a time. A select few will be given new homes on the inside surface of this sphere, from where they can transmit orders to the hoi polloi down below, looking up at them.

  6. Russ Williams

    A communications disruption can mean only one thing...


  7. mittfh


    Surely this is the first sign that it's starting to get a little congested up there...

  8. Julian I-Do-Stuff


    I like conspiracy theories... alas I have only a question, but give me time and I'm sure I could work it up

    Since the US continuously tracks all satellites (and lots of debris) surely a collision would have been predicted before it happened and e.g. Iridium warned to take avoiding action - unless one satellite manoeuvred suddenly...

    So - whodunnit? Was it -

    a) a US anti-sat operation using an Iridium satellite (possibly specially hacked and redirected, possibly with connivance of Iridium.... ah! Got to a conspiracy at last!)

    b) a Russian anti-sat operation... etc. etc.

    c) a CHINESE anti-sat AND hacking operation

    d) a 4Chan stunt

    e) clumsy Reptilians

    .....i) Arriving in time to pick up the pieces of the (crisis of your choice),

    .....ii) Departing in time to avoid the (crisis of your choice)

    f) a Banker

    g) THEM

    Oh look! The sky IS falling.

  9. amanfromMars Silver badge

    Full of Eastern Promise ... and Western Renaissance?

    "Just for starters, here's one: the Russians deliberately rammed the Iridium sat to prevent a particular satphone call/tracker-bug message/submarine data upload getting through"

    Wow, now that is what I would call Heavy MetAIdData. If we didn't know any better, you could nearly spin it as one of those Rock Chipsets Frying the Opposition and Testing IT Ranges for Roaming Renegades

  10. Lionel Baden


    I wonder if they got the insurance details !!!

  11. Evil Auditor Silver badge


    Some while ago, I started to actually read comments by amanfromMars. But still, it doesn't make much sense and looks more like a semi-random word generator.


  12. Geeks and Lies

    Must have been....

    the same Alien (sorry UFO ;-) ) that smashed into that Wind turbine this ET is a clumsy bastard is he not! Dread to think how high this guys galatic insurance premiums will go, just hope it doesnt cost the eath.......

  13. Martin Lyne

    And humanity is prevented

    And lo, humanity was prevented from reaching the stars before it had even begun. Due to the cloud of high speed shrapnel circling it's planet.

    Inflatable space hotel, right? :P

    Would it be so hard to put a few square (hundred) metres of Kevlar up there, little booster on it. Just move it around to soak up the shrapnel. By letting the shrapnel hit it I mean..

  14. Anonymous Coward


    >> "We believe it's the first time that two satellites have collided in orbit," the colonel added.

    you "believe" (read: not sure/can't say) that is the first time two freaking satellites have collided in the freaking orbit? this is odd, no matter how you look at it, this is really odd!

    @ Julian I-Do-Stuff, nice conspiracy

    mine is the one made of tin foil

  15. Tim Spence

    Space = big, satellites = small

    I find it amazing that this has happened - space is pretty big, yeah? And in comparison, satellites are quite small.

    Yes, I know that they generally fly at a similar altitude (though not necessarily identical) and can often broadly follow similar paths, but we're still talking about a truly MAHOOSIVE area they can fly around in, especially given that a satellite in comparison is so diddy.

    For it to happen by chance, it'd be like lobbing peanuts at eachother from opposite sides of a football pitch, and expecting them to collide in mid-air.

    My foul-play tentacles are raised.

  16. M7S

    It actually proves someone other than me also listens to BBC7

    The James Follett play Light of a Thousand Suns was repeated a few weeks ago, and starts with a very similar problem. Here's hoping someone in the MoD didnt think the positive restraint required was a good idea.

  17. Random Noise
    Black Helicopters


    You're clearly all wrong. This was an intentional act brought about to generate public support for Star Wars Laser V2.0!

    Watch out for 'scientists invent way to clear space debris' headlines on your favourite IT news site in the near future.

  18. Stuart Van Onselen

    Laws of chance...

    @Tim Spence

    I think it's not only plausible, nut inevitable that this would happen sooner or later. While I agree that the volumes we're talking about here are ginormous, we do have thousands of satellites up there, many of them criss-crossing each other's orbits. Sooner or later, there will be a collision.

    If you keep lobbing those peanuts, 100 times a day (figure dragged from a handy orifice), for 40 years (roughly how long we've had artificial satellites) they're going to connect eventually.

  19. Chad H.

    Now maybe...

    Now maybe they'll start taking the space junk problem seriously....

  20. Max


    I hope this hasn't put any of you folks off satellites. Statistically speaking, its still the safest way to communicate.

  21. Remy Redert

    @Tim Spence

    Not at all a bad analogy. However there's a few hundred people on that field all lobbing peanuts at eachother at different angles. If they keep it up long enough, peanuts will collide with eachother.

    As to the kevlar debris catching device, it's not as easy as it looks.

    If you come in on the opposing orbit (easiest to hit), you're looking at a few dozen kilometers per second of relative velocity. You won't stop even a tiny little bolt at that speed without sustaining severe damage.

    Hitting at a shallow intersecting orbit from the same direction minimises the relative velocity. But it'll still be pretty large and now you'll need several passes to scoop all that debris up.

    And what happens if you bump into debris and, instead of capturing it, send it off into a different orbit?

  22. Anonymous Coward

    Worry not.

    It's just John Connor popping back from the future to ensure that Skynet never becomes sentient.

  23. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Down


    >> "We believe it's the first time that two satellites have collided in orbit," the colonel added.

    >you "believe" (read: not sure/can't say) that is the first time two freaking satellites have collided in the freaking orbit? this is odd, no matter how you look at it, this is really odd!

    Odd? WTF are you talking about? Why should there be anything odd about him not knowing for 100% certain whether there might or might not have been a collision between satellites sometime in the past? Do you suppose if two russian or chinese military satellites had collided in orbit they'd have bothered to inform the colonel?

    The attempt to make some kind of evidence of conspiracy out of this utterly trivial workaday disclaimer is pretty desparate, really.

  24. Harry

    So, whose satellite is it ...

    ... that will lose its No Claims Bonus ???

    And which company has a long enough ladder to do panel beating up there?

  25. Tom

    Throwing Peanuts

    I guess it would be like throwing peanuts at each other from opposite sides of a football pitch, but what you're missing is that you'd be throwing them several thousand times per hour for a few decades.

  26. Mark Wills Silver badge


    It's in space, and is weightless, therefore has no inertia. So how can two weightless objects colliding in space blow each other to smithereens? Sure, I guess they could damage each other - knock a booster out of alignment, tear a solar strip, but, surely, if they hit each other, they'll just, er, stop?

    I apologise in advance if I'm being thick. No, really I do.

    Mine's the one with Newton's Law for Dummies in the pocket.

  27. Steve Hosgood

    Iridium still useful despite GSM roaming

    Apart from shortwave, it's the only way to maintain comms with ships out in the oceans, polar stations and any other places with no cellphone infrastructure (or where you don't want to use the cellphone infrastructure).

    So yes, the US military would be keen to maintain it for all those reasons, but so I imagine are the shipping companies. (Both the cruise-liner companies and the freight companies).

    Also, it's useful for achieving any sort of comms with spacetime-warping islands. As long as you can cope with the revenge of the smoke monster, the occasional polar bear and a horde of 1960's hippies with machine guns....

  28. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    But with all those people tracking satellites

    surely someone must have noticed beforehand that those two were going to collide. So why wasn't the collision avoided?

    Or were both satellites unmanoeuvrable?

    Or did both satellites try to avoid the collision by increasing their altitude a bit so they collided anyway?

    The report suggests that the Iridium satellite was manoeuvrable and the other one wasn't.

  29. Andrew

    What are the odds?

    Out of interest, how big are these satellites and how big is the surface area of the 'sphere' at this point hundreds of miles above the earth? Add in a couple of miles vertical variation and what are the odds two satellites will occupy the same space at the same time?

    Accident my ar5e.

  30. Anonymous Coward
    Black Helicopters

    The real reason...

    The Iridium satellite was used to prevent the Russian satellite from destroying another one of your windmill turbines in Lincolnshire...

  31. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    satellite was deliberatly destroyed

    if the US can track so many thousand `logged pieces of space debris` then why can they not track these satellites trajectory. other satellites can have precise trajectories plotted for hundreds of years ahead so why the problem here.

    this was not an accidental collision

  32. Ross Fleming

    @Stuart Van Onselen

    "If you keep lobbing those peanuts, 100 times a day (figure dragged from a handy orifice), for 40 years (roughly how long we've had artificial satellites) they're going to connect eventually."

    Much like if you have 1000 monkeys typing on 1000 typewriters, shut them in a room for a 1000 years and you get.... 1000 dead monkeys

    @Mark Wills

    They might be "weightless", but not mass-less.

  33. Joe Cooper

    @Tim Spence

    Instead of picturing it like two people throwing peanuts across a football field, imagine 15000 peanuts flying in circles tightly around an orb for 40 years straight.

    Smaller collisions happen frequently. The Space Shuttle program has experienced many collisions.

    The most recently flight got smacked on the window by a meteor. In fact there have been multiple strikes to the window. Here are some photos:

    Another time they found a hole punched in it. Inside this hole was a piece of a circuit board from a Russian launch vehicle that exploded decades years prior.

    Of course, the only piece of space debris to actually bring down a shuttle came from it's own fuel tank. So it pretty much never makes the news.

  34. Anonymous Coward

    @Mark Wills

    Yes, they are weight-less, but they are not mass-less...

    Inertia is based on mass, not weight (ie KG not N) - Newtons second law (F=ma) gives you the forces involved when two objects with great mass (m) collide (diminishing velocity a=(v-u)/t=dv/dt)... I think you'll find that that's enough force to destroy a couple of flimsy splattelites!

    So yes, two objects colliding in space will do lots of damage to each other. How else would the Chinese have managed to destroy a satellite with a missile? According to your prior logic, they would have just stopped each other, had a cup of tea and carried on with their existences.

  35. Pete Randall Silver badge

    @Mark Wills

    Maybe if they were very solid objects, however instead they're quite fragile. LEO orbits are in the region of 8km/s, and these satellites are quite massy.

    Get two meringue nests and smack them together really hard (clap your hands together while holding one in each). Now how many pieces do you have?

  36. Anonymous Coward

    @Mark Wills

    >> "It's in space, and is weightless, therefore has no inertia. So how can two weightless objects colliding in space blow each other to smithereens [...] surely, if they hit each other, they'll just, er, stop?"

    Weightless maybe. Mass-less? No. The two satellites still have mass, therefore inertia, therefore biiiiig crash.

  37. Anonymous Coward
    Black Helicopters

    No accident

    @ iain newby I am sure your onto something. Presumably the impending impact was identified some time ago and the Iridium sacrificed to save the US black ops beweaponed death unit parked next to it.

  38. Matt Bryant Silver badge

    RE: @Tim Spence

    So what we need is a satellite with two-hundred foot arms to spread the World's largest piece of (re-inforced) flypaper. That can fly co-orbit and mop it all up in no time. Then we just aim the remains at the Sun, give it a boost and problem gone.

    /is it liquid lunchtime already? I'll just get my coat....

  39. Graham Jordan

    Chuck Norris

    If Chuck Norris were a space traffic controller this would never have happened.

  40. Jon

    @ Mark Wills

    On the odd chance you are not a troll and actually just have an inquizative mind, inertia is based on mass not weight. All objects will have a mass. Also to be in orbit they still experience gravity from earth its just they are falling at the same rate they are going round, so it is like HHGTG flying, falling but failing to hit the ground.

  41. Tim Bergel

    @Mark Wills

    > It's in space, and is weightless, therefore has no inertia.

    You are totally wrong. It seems weightless because its in orbit & falling freely, but it has all of the mass and inertia it had on the ground. Remember that weight is not equal to mass.

  42. billy no mates

    claims direct rime

    "Have you had an accident or fall at work that wasn't your fault ? "

    Then sue the b*******

    This is what the owners if the iridium sat could do.

    actually thinking about it, I never thought 'cloud' computing involved satellites !

    Its all in the cloud (sorry couldn't resist)

  43. Jonathan Richards

    @Mark Willis - Newtonian mechanics

    Weight is our interpretation of the gravitational attraction of masses towards the earth. Weight varies with distance from the planet, but mass is invariant (in Newtonian mechanics). Inertia is a property associated with mass, so the inertia, i.e. the tendency to continue in a straight line without change of velocity, is identical for a satellite in orbit and its twin at rest on the ground. Momentum is mass times velocity, and is a measure of energy, again independent of gravitational attractions.

  44. toby powell-blyth

    @Mark Wills

    The weightlessthing is a myth.. Evertything, conceptually, is simply falling at the same speed. (Don't forget that gravity is inverse-square related to distance from the mass * the mass). Weight is a function of Mass and relative gravity, the Mass remains constant even if lofted into space. It wouldn't take much to do serious damage to two solid bits of metal + hydrazine + secret russian military lasers.

    This fun link might help explain it.

    @conspiracy theorists: Maybe the Iridium satellite was doing the ramming?? Maybe the US DOD is interested in the satellites as Ramming weapons, not some space age laser thingummies.

  45. Dodgy Geezer Silver badge

    A Response...

    "It's in space, and is weightless, therefore has no inertia. So how can two weightless objects colliding in space blow each other to smithereens? .....I apologise in advance if I'm being thick. No, really I do...."

    There are NO stupid questions..Only stupid answers.

    My answer is that the satellites indeed have no 'weight', but that does not mean they have no mass. We only see weight and mass as identical because we all live in the same gravity well, but they are actually different.

    Kinetic energy and inertia are dependent on mass, not weight. So each satellite will hit with 1/2 MV squared energy - which may be quite large....

  46. Andrew Newstead

    For Mr Wills...


    This is a common misconception due to people not understanding the true nature of "weightlessness" in space or the distinction between mass and weight. An object in orbit is actually falling through space, along with everything inside it. Because everything inside the vehicle is falling at the same rate compared to the vehicle it appears to float around. We see the same thing with skydivers falling together form an aircraft, they appear to float around with respect to each other. Because of this "freefall" it appears that the skydiver's weight has gone away and this is also the effect in orbit or space.

    Mass, though does not go away in freefall and as Inertia is actually a function/property of mass, not weight, and this also does not disapear when an object is placed in orbit. As a result the energy involved in the collision of these two objects would be the same regardless where the collision takes place, in orbit or on the ground. In this case it is the velocities of the two objects that is the damaging component, the faster an object goes the more kinetic energy is involved in the collision and these objects had velocities in the miles per second category.

    Therefore a big bang is in order!


  47. Will
    Black Helicopters

    Insurance job?

    With the Iridium company having a bit of a cheqeured financial history and with spare Iridium satellites up there to replace the destroyed craft my spider sense suggests this could be an insurance job. The Iridium satellites are moveable and very expensive so you would think that the company would monitor anything in it's path, after all the satellite positions are known and predictable ( has most of them on file). Quick easy way to make millions if you ask me.

  48. James Hughes

    @Mark Will

    Best you read that Newton for Dummies book....

    They still has mass, and velocity, and therefor energy. This energy =1/2mv^2, which at orbital velocities is very very large, even for small objects. These satellites where about 500kg each, at, Oh, I dunno, lets say 18k kph (an underestimation) = 648000m/s , so that total energy of about, er, crikey, a really big number. 1/2 * 1000 * (648000^2). 209M M/Joules. Hmm. That seems a bit big.

    Anyways, it's something like that.

  49. Chris Martin
    Black Helicopters

    Tim and Air Traffic Control...

    Hi there, TIM SPENCE, I am guessing you are the one that I knew from school all those years back! Like the Peanut example.

    There is loads of software out there for tracking satellites. I know that a Ham Radio program that I have on my Ubuntu box can track the iridium sats. Surely if Sats are in any obrit there paths can be predicted and alerts can be sent out, its a bit like air traffic control really.

  50. Omer Ozen

    re: But...

    @Mark Wills

    "It's in space, and is weightless " does not mean mass = 0. And you will find mass matters not the weight.


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