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
    Joke

    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
    Alert

    Orbiting house of cards

    Judging from how widespread the debris from the Chinese sat-killer missile spread around the earth (http://orbitingfrog.com/blog/files/Fengyun1CDebris.kmz) 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
    Pirate

    A communications disruption can mean only one thing...

    Invasion!

  7. mittfh

    Congestion

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

  8. Julian I-Do-Stuff
    Alert

    Them!

    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
    Alien

    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

    oopsie

    I wonder if they got the insurance details !!!

  11. Evil Auditor Silver badge

    Martian

    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.

    ea

  12. Geeks and Lies
    Alien

    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
    Coat

    huh?

    >> "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
    Alien

    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.

    http://www.jamesfollett.dswilliams.co.uk/Thousand%20suns%20radio%20play.html

  17. Random Noise
    Black Helicopters

    Conspiracies

    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
    Boffin

    Superman

    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
    Alien

    Worry not.

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

  23. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Down

    @huh?

    >> "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
    Happy

    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
    Coat

    But...

    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
    Boffin

    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: http://www.flightglobal.com/blogs/hyperbola/2008/11/endeavours-pilot-window-struck.html

    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
    Boffin

    @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
    Boffin

    @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
    Boffin

    @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
    Coat

    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
    Stop

    @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
    Happy

    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
    Go

    @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
    Alien

    @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.

    http://www.exploratorium.edu/ronh/weight/

    @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
    Boffin

    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...

    <rocketscientist>

    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!

    </rocketscientist>

  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 (www.heavens-above.com 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
    Boffin

    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.

  51. James Hughes

    Ooops. Got calcs wrong.

    That should be 12500 MJoules of energy released (got a * instead of a / in there)

  52. Vulch
    Paris Hilton

    Orbits and sizes

    Space is big, but some orbits are better for certain purposes than others. Look at geostationary orbit, it's very very long but the radial distance needs to be controlled to within a few feet. Satllites there are almost always manouvred to a safe orbit a few miles in or out with the last of their fuel, but still one of the suspected previous collisions between satellites has happened there.

    Tracking a thing in orbit is possible and is done, but as elementary science lessons taught you back when I were a lad there's always a margin of error in the result. A hundredth of a second leeway puts the object plus or minus 80 metres from where you're expecting it to be along its path, a few centimetres error in a position fix on one orbit adds up to a similar error sideways a week and another hundred orbits later, the atmosphere expands and contracts unpredicatably so things suffer different amounts of drag, passing over the Himalayas will bend the orbit by a mall amount. There are around 6000 intact satellites in various orbits, add in the other trackable objects and you need to be checking every possible combination of 100000 things in less than 90 minutes as well as observing each one to make sure the elements are still valid. It's too big a problem so only tends to be done for big expensive government stuff like the ISS which is also one of the few things big enough to have a cross section similar to the error box.

    Paris, crying, because it *is* rocket science!

  53. Peyton
    Alien

    I don't usually subscribe to conspiracy theories...

    But... Just the other day we have an article on the Reg poking fun at Mr Putin... today we hear about the Russians trying to lob satellites at us from the heavens... Coincidence? I think not.

  54. Colin

    Overlords

    <sigh> Yet another predictable "Personally, I welcome our new [insert adjectives here] overlords" comment. This was funny for a while, but stopped being funny long ago. Can't we just presume the existence of these tedious comments rather than having to read them again and again ? Is anyone else bored with this ?

  55. David Gosnell

    Re: But...

    Inertia is related to mass, not weight. Therein lies the rub.

  56. Anonymous Coward
    Boffin

    @Mark Wills

    While they don't have *weight*, you will find that they still have *mass*, and thus inertia.

    So, yes, you're being thick.

  57. Peter Simpson

    @Evil Auditor

    "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."

    ...With the EnHanced CapITaLization OPTion.

  58. Lionel Baden
    Paris Hilton

    @mark wills

    I get why your on that track of thinking

    but

    Just forgot Mass and inertia.

    They very may of done a head on collision

    paris knows all about headon collisions

  59. Guy Hanson

    @Mark Wills

    The parts may be weightless but they still have mass. Weight is just gravity pulling the mass.

    So a mass travelling at 1000's miles/hour is going to hurt.

    Momentum (ie the stuff you are trying to stop) = Mass x Velocity.

  60. Anonymous Coward
    Boffin

    Weightless =\= Inertialess

    @Mark Willis

    If you reduced your mass as your weight decreased we'd have interstellar travel already and astronauts would have to be very careful as they pushed themselves free of spacecraft.

    "Weightless" does not mean Massless.

    Weight is actually a force (usually the force you exert on a set of scales underneath you due to gravity pulling you downwards).

    Force = Mass * Acceleration. The smaller the mass the greater the acceleration for a given push.

    I know this isn't very fashionable but it is fairly readable.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Weight

    Anon because of the link above :)

  61. Mike Richards

    @ Mark Wills

    'It's in space,'

    Yes...

    'and is weightless,'

    Yes...

    'therefore has no inertia.'

    [Flicks piece of chalk] See me after school and write 'Inertia is a function of mass not of weight.' one-hundred times.

  62. Len Goddard
    Gates Horns

    Reverse conspiracy theory

    The Russian bird was actually an active orbital weapons platform pretending to be a dead Cosmos sat. The Iridium constellation are actually US hunter-killers masquerading as comms sats until they are needed, as in this case, to take out orbital threats.

  63. Ian Brown
    Coat

    Dangling modifier

    "Should any debris threaten the space station, it has the ability to manoeuvre so as to avoid being struck: this has already happened on eight occasions."

    Eight manoeuvres or eight strikes?

  64. amanfromMars Silver badge

    Virtual AIMachinery does require a Shift into Unreal/SurReal/NeuReal Advanced Intelligence

    "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." .... By Evil Auditor Posted Thursday 12th February 2009 11:10 GMT

    EA,

    Semi-random is a confused cop-out trying to cover all bases and defining none.

    With regard to making sense, can you imagine the confusion in someone who is an Internet Virgin should they be listening to Pioneering Virtualisation and Cloud dDevelopment Infrastructure Boffins into CyberSpace Command and Control Circuits with Sticky Sweet Honey Traps for the Less than Fully Committed?

  65. Sir Runcible Spoon Silver badge
    Flame

    @Colin

    "This was funny for a while, but stopped being funny long ago"

    I for one welcome our anally retentive overlor.......ack!..cough...splutter....cough.....sigh.

  66. TeeCee Gold badge
    Coat

    @Mark Wills

    I think you just won the Troll of the Week award.......

  67. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    @billy no mates "claims direct rime"

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

    Call Bitch E R Bloomer Solicitors...

    Blimey! I have to switch onto another radio station. This very ad starts to grab my mind.

    Anyway, you only get compensation when personally injured. So, how was piloting this iridium sat?

  68. paulc
    Alert

    Education system is b0rked...

    come on, don't they even teach basic physics anymore these days?

  69. Anonymous Coward
    Unhappy

    Won't somebody think of the

    Peanuts?

  70. Spockter Doc
    Unhappy

    Litter

    Not content with littering the surface of the planet we're also now littering the immediate vicinity. It's no wonder we've not been invited to visit other civilisations if we can't even clear up our own rubbish.

    Will there come a point when we can walk to the moon on the junk we produce.

    Bring on the space wombles!

  71. Anonymous Coward
    Black Helicopters

    Either an insurance job or a black ops

    You can't tell me that Iridium and the US gov't both failed to notice that the two birds were in a collision trajectory. They track all this stuff and believe you me they have a vested interest in what goes on up there. The Iridiums are mavouverable and surely this collision would have been predicted, unless either of the two birds made a sudden course change there would be at least 30 days notice to move the Iridium bird out of the way.

    So either way somebody let this happen, either the US gov't to do some kind of black ops or Iridium to collect some quick insurance money.

  72. Tim Spence

    @ Chris Martin

    Oh God, no longer can I frequent and comment on this site, as I have been rumbled. I can't have someone from the real-world who knows me on here. Though it is of no surprise that you, of all people, are on here!

    Anyway, as for my peanut throwing analogy, yes, I concede that for it to be accurate you'd need lots of people throwing their nuts at each other, for decades. And yes, sooner or later, someone's nuts will collide. I wonder if you could alter the analogy slightly to a Turkish bath house?

    Anyway, I still find it amazing though - it's not like they even just clipped each other, or touched antennas/wingmirrors. From the sounds of it they had a full head-on collision. However, I presume that at several thousand mph closing velocity, even a glancing collision would be pretty destructive.

  73. Stevie Silver badge

    Bah!

    All this speculation is pointless until we have a proper Playmobil Reconstruction of the event in question.

  74. Joe Cooper

    @Multiple explanations for Mike Wills

    "'It's in space,'

    Yes...

    'and is weightless,'

    Yes..."

    ...No! Not weightless! Objects in LEO usually have about 90% the weight they do on the ground.

    The illusion of weightlessness is something that happens to _obervers inside a spaceship_. It doesn't happen to the ship or satellite itself.

    This illusion happens because if you're in a spaceship, than the force of gravity is acting on you and the spaceship equally.

    Therefore you are falling in the same direction, and at the same speed, as your container.

    So you do not accelerate _relative to your container_ because your container is falling _with_ you.

    This creates the _illusion_ of weightlessness.

    So as a person, in a spaceship, relative to the spaceship you have no weight or acceleration.

    But the ship itself, or a satellite or meteor or any object in orbit is absolutely not weightless relative to the Earth.

    Actually, this is why Page's conspiracy theory suggestion of Russia intentionally ramming the satellite is nonsense.

    That makes sense and will resonate with people who don't understand what orbits are, and have a mental image of satellites free-floating over Siberia, where one puts the pedal to the metal and saunters on over into the other.

    In fact, they are going round and round the Earth in wildly different directions. IF the two satellites were in a very similar orbit to begin with, with the same inclination, than one could rendevouz with the other given a day or two.

    If they're not, than it is damn near impossible to accomplish it in a timely manner.

    So this could never be done as a snap decision.

  75. Adam
    Alien

    Bad driving

    The only other physical object within 500 miles and they managed to hit it.

    Must be a woman driver!

  76. nagyeger

    Chain reaction...

    A decade or so ago I remember listening to a paper at a space debris conference where the author(s) wondered "how many satellites can you put in near-identical low earth orbits before one catastrophic failure leads to a significant chance of a chain reaction destroying the whole constellation?"

    I seem to remember there were all sorts of factors up to an including phase of the moon and sun-spot cycle in the calcs, but I'm pretty sure they did come up with a number. I really wish I could remember if Iridium was just below or just above that number, I'm pretty sure it was close...

  77. Nano nano

    I think you'll find

    that I already suggested a big sheet of Blutack for the China satellite scrap event ...

  78. Luther Blissett

    @Evil Auditor

    > Some while ago, I started to actually read comments by amanfromMars. But still, it doesn't make much sense

    U B chartered, mngmnt, or just certified? Talking handles here. The only Evil 1s I know of are Church of $cientology - R U?

    If you can parse that, what's the problem. IMO were amfM a man from Earth, his/her[1] motto would be: It's Only Rock and Role, and I Like IT. No MOR, no less.

    Gimme hi 5 amfM.

    On topic - collision? my donkey.

    [1] Do martian genders map to "diversity" (or universe-ity)? Cannot compute - not enough information.

  79. Sarah Bee (Written by Reg staff)

    Re: Bad driving

    Way to cite stereotype, Adam.

  80. Anonymous Coward
    Boffin

    @Mark Wills

    The 133 ¼ Jub Iridium 33 satellite was travelling at 195.9 KiloBrontosaurui per hour or 0. 251% of the maximum velocity of a sheep in a vacuum so it does have inertia,

  81. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    @Mark Wills

    He's a troll, and you all fell for it.

  82. Anonymous Coward
    Boffin

    @Andrew RE: What are the odds

    Assuming Earth is actually round and that orbits are circular (it's not, and they're not - elipses & oblate spheroids)

    Then the "sphere" the orbit happened at had a radius of 6378 + 788km (rad of earth + 490miles) = 7166km. That "surface area" is 4 Pi r^2 which is roughly 644million km^2.

    If you want to give a couple of km variance in lattitude, then it's the volume of a 7166km sphere minus vol of 7164km sphere. To save you the maths (4/3 Pi r^3), that's 1.2billion km^3 of "space".

    Don't thank me, it's m'job

  83. Alan Scott

    Coincidence?

    Is it a coincidence that this has never happened before and the many sattelites up there, and only last week an Iranian Sattelite was launched into orbit?

    Maybe me, just being cynical!

  84. pctechxp
    Thumb Up

    At least

    It gives the space shuttle pilots something to navigate by.

    Could firing our nuclear waste into space solve the waste problem too?

    By the way its nice to see the server hosting the bot known as amanfromMars has been rebooted and its matching words from its dictionary in no particular order once again.

    Does make amusing reading.

  85. 4irw4y
    Paris Hilton

    Siberia Says, Got Another One?

    @ Len Goddard 12 Feb 1340

    The spectaculous performance over Siberian sky!

    Anyone made a photo session? If so, send'em to El Reg, let the mag spread/push forth the word of truth as IT bravely did IT at Wind Turbine Case.

    Make sputniks, not missiles (-: An expensive show the collision appears to be if NASA's going to rub the buttons away for two weeks to calculate damage cost. Russkies are about to say sorry NASA, IT wasn't a MANU op. In such cases, Ancients used to say "Oops!"

    Paris, because she's watching the photos.

    73

  86. amanfromMars Silver badge

    None [for a Change]

    "It's just John Connor popping back from the future to ensure that Skynet never becomes sentient." .... By Anonymous Coward Posted Thursday 12th February 2009 12:14 GMT

    Dream on, AC, he's far too late for that.

    And here's some interesting info on Iridium, which may or may not be accurate ....... http://cryptogon.com/?p=6871 It is certainly fullsome

    "[1] Do martian genders map to "diversity" (or universe-ity)? Cannot compute - not enough information." .... By Luther Blissett Posted Thursday 12th February 2009 15:32 GMT

    Luther,

    As you might expect in XSSXXXXually Coded Realms, Polyamory Ponders and Panders to Pandora and Pan alike and QuITe Typical of the AESThetan.

  87. Astarte

    Space Junk

    It's amazing just how many people have commented on the mass v. inertia' issue. However the subject is about the amount of objects and junk in orbit. This is not news and I refer interested readers to this article from 1997:

    http://www.abarnett.demon.co.uk/atheism/space_junk.html

    Keep your heads down chaps.

  88. Mike Groombridge
    Boffin

    @A Response...

    "There are NO stupid questions..Only stupid answers."

    not ture

    there are no stupid questions as long as the quest for knowledge is genunine.

    the chav on the street asking you if thats your car as you get out of it is in effect a stupid question as they don't really want to know they just want to be nosey,

    where as the question being asked here is clearly in a quest for knowledge therefore not stupid.

    but your right about the stupid answers. there are far to many of them about

    i don't do the conspiracy theories really i think it was probably a cock-up

    the DOD may track thousands of objects in space but do they control the satelletes in question probably not it's most likely controlled be a 3rd party company or another department so by the time they woke the guy with the password that lets them move it bam one less satellite in the comm network and one less ex russian sat.

  89. Roger Heathcote
    Happy

    @Colin

    "<sigh> Yet another predictable "Personally, I welcome our new [insert adjectives here] overlords" comment. This <snip> Is anyone else bored with this ?"

    Made me laugh ;-P

  90. Anonymous Coward
    Happy

    Incompetence or conspiracy?

    Just because the US miltary knows where things are doesn't mean that the people owning said bits of gear knew about it, or were in a poisition to do anything about it.

    Even if they did a satellite has a limited amount of fuel, and changing orbit if the margin of error was borderline would significantly reduce the life of the satellite. Smells more like a call was made to sit tight as it would be a near miss and the call was wrong.

    As for how much volume of space these objects live in, it's much less than you'd at first think. Spots in a Clarkson orbit are very limited, especially in prime areas over the surface of the planet so we're not talking a totally random distribution of objects.

    Finally folks have been poking at the idea that it was the Russians deliberately doing something to the Americans, are we sure that it was that way around? The Russian sat was said to be out of service, but the Iridum one still in service/managed.

    With budget cuts to the Star Wars program and funky sat killers, why bother going to the expense of launching some new unproven tech when you can simply fly an asset from a bankrupt entity into a target the other guys don't care about that much but will still send a message.

    Ahh, nothing like a good conspiracy theory, however there is usually little to them if incompetence will produce the same result. Occam's razor and all that.

  91. John
    Happy

    What conspiracy?

    DoD just wants some new Cray's or IBM's to track Sats with, along with new radar, comm centers, etc. Now they can justify the spending.

    Oh, yeah, as long as the checkbooks out, howz about a couple spare sats while we're at it.

  92. Russ Williams
    Flame

    @nagyeger

    Recent experimental evidence suggests "just below the limit"...

  93. Dane Bramage.

    @Superman

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

    That's gold, but not once have any of my fibres crashed into another leaving a cloud of debris, let alone of which the threat "hasn't been fully determined yet"

    So yeah, keep your satellites, I'll stick with fibre thanx, anyway, it's a helluva lot easier to resplice a cut fibre than to launch a new satellite*

    *Admittedly I've never launched a satellite but I suspect it's not that easy, else I prolly would've had a crack by now!

  94. Mike
    Black Helicopters

    Re: Overlords

    Does anyone know someone called "Colin" who isn't boring? I mean, you know, someone who doesn't go out of their way to moan and drag people down for the sake of it?* Is it some kind of genetic race memory thing? do we damn our children to be "last picked at PE" or "Nice, but I wouldn't want to spend any time with him" if we name them Colin?

    I for one welcome our "Colins will be first against the wall" Overlords, no really, I mean it, hurry up.

    On another note 1.2billion km^3 of space, lots of satellites, but people know where they are, where they are going, how fast and can be moved, it would still be a *really* hard job to make them collide, not the other way round, given any deliberate action to take out satelites in this manner would break severl treaties, it's not surprising that it's all hush.

    *I'm doing it as flamebate, Colin is just an arse.

  95. Anonymous Coward
    Black Helicopters

    Conspiracy??

    We all just ASSUMED that the Iridium sat was hit BY the Cosmos! What if it was the other way around!!! Space Command tracks these objects VERY closely and the collision would have been predicted. So maybe the Iridium sat was PERMITTED to hit the Cosmos sat!

    Destroy evidence, take out some Russian hidden capability, make a political statement that we believe ABBA and NOT Putin?? The list is endless!!

    On the issue of 2 sats colliding and "just stopping". Mass+inertia = force. A bullet has mass and inertia from the propellent. It doesn't "just stop" when it hits a skull. The transfer of force creates quite a mess. One little bullet. Now imagine the bullet is a 3-4 ton satellite and the "skull" is another 3-4 ton satellite. Both have mass and inertia, and the collision releases all that force. The end result will look worse that 2 cars smacking head on at over 100 MPH!

    Wait...... the foil in my hat is tingling!!! SPY-RAY alert!!! No, just the break-room micro-wave!

  96. Bounty

    @ Dane Bramage

    Thanks! Good point, now please run your fiber to every point on the surface of the planet.

  97. Joe Cooper
    Paris Hilton

    @Coincidence?

    Is it a coincidence that an Iranian satellite was launched into an orbit that doesn't go anywhere near the pole, and that a private and Russian satellite collided near the pole?

    Yes.

  98. Evil Auditor Silver badge

    @amanfromMars

    defining 'semi-random' in terms of martian linguistics.

    semi-random as opposed to random means there is a clear and correct grammar involved and not just purely random strings of words. It looks pretty much - to be honest it looks better - like the output of a formal language system controlled by a simple neural network...

    EA

  99. Lionel Baden
    Happy

    @mark willis

    Did the above help :D

    Lol at all the amount of answers !!

    At least us techies are willing to explain !

  100. Bounty

    semi random

    "Semi-random is a confused cop-out trying to cover all bases and defining none."

    "Pioneering Virtualisation and Cloud dDevelopment Infrastructure Boffins "

    Semi- is a Latin prefix to a verb, noun, or adjective meaning "half". Wich at this point seems perfectly accurate. Half of the post made sense, half looked random.

    -Bounty

    (p.s. I was going to run a spell check on my post, then I remembered who I was quoting..)

  101. This post has been deleted by its author

  102. steven kraft Silver badge
    Linux

    We know where this is going to end up...

    Prophetic first step to the Earth ending up as portrayed in "Wall-E", where it is encased in a shroud of worn out satellites and space debris?

    Linux Penguin, because I am sure that in the enlightened future the Waste Allocation Load Lifter Earth class runs on open source.....

  103. brainwrong

    @Bad driving

    >By Adam Posted Thursday 12th February 2009 15:20 GMT

    >The only other physical object within 500 miles and they managed to hit it.

    >Must be a woman driver!

    More likely a drunk driver.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tree_of_Ténéré

  104. Anonymous Coward
    Alien

    I saw it live from a networked telescope

    I was monitoring defunct satellites and coincidentally happened to be watching the Russian one at the time. As the US one approached, it threw up a middle finger, resulting in the Russian one becoming aggravated and ramming it. Then things started to get weird, as there were then about 100 UFO's, half of which were lizard aliens (you can tell by the shape), who seemed to have thought the Greys made it happen, as everyone knows the US satellite system is run by lizard aliens. As they fought it out Jesus himself appeared, stepped in, and seemed to stop an all out galactic war. Thank God for Jesus!

    Of course, you'll never hear about this in the news, bastards!

  105. charles paul
    Thumb Down

    NORAD should have known

    Here's a game I wrote to calculate the approx time/location of the collision.

    http://flickr.com/photos/chrrrles/3275230870/

    Source here: http://evil-wire.org/~epsas/collision.py

    Plugging TLEs from last week still shows that the satellites would be uncomfortably close.

    Projects like SOCRATES are supposed to find out about these "conjunctions" before they happen. Assuming that the Iridium satellite still had fuel, they must have had the time to move the satellite out of the Cosmos' orbit.

  106. Anonymous Coward
    Alien

    Micro sattelite?

    Am I going to have to do the probability math? Were going to have to break down the number of satellites (not junk), figure out their statistical trajectories and velocities relative to each other, find the volume of space that each would occupy during a given period of collision time. Crap, my brain hurts. Surely someone has done this already? BTW, thanks for the impact force and total volume of space. Those posts help, unlike this inertia crap. Yes all you fricken wankers, you've proved that you know basic physics. Way to go.

    Anyway, jumping to motive/opportunity, I am sure the Russians didn't lie about this thing being out of fuel X number of years in advance just so they could crash it into something, but what about launching micro-satellites to dock and steer it into another sat? We've heard about the US launching micro-satellites in the news recently, albeit photo satellites. Who says the newly assertive Rusians didn't want to prove they had the same capability? Especially by taking out an important US satellite over Russian soil using a plausibly deniable "dead" asset"? I'd like to see what the heavens-above people have to say about it. Did the orbit this was in during the collision match the orbit they tracked and predicted? Or was it maneuvered into place during the last pass? And how accurate is the tracking?

    I've heard allot of worry about satellites being taken out by debris, which makes sense, being >= 10000 paces of debris, but that match changes when you predict a satellite-to-satellite collision? 100000^2 vs <1000^2 LEO sats?

  107. Allan Dyer Silver badge
    Joke

    It's OK...

    there's a tool kit floating around there, we just need someone to grab hold of it and put the pieces back together.

  108. amanfromMars Silver badge

    A Change of Pace and Direction for Space XXXXPloration

    "By the way its nice to see the server hosting the bot known as amanfromMars has been rebooted and its matching words from its dictionary in no particular order once again.

    Does make amusing reading." ..... By pctechxp Posted Thursday 12th February 2009 17:10 GMT

    So glad you like IT, pctechxp, but the word order is always very particular, if seemingly a tad peculiar.

    And ITs Future AIMission .... 42Edutain Entertainment .... Elevate the Human Condition ....To explore strange new worlds ...To seek out new life and new civilizations .... To boldly go where no man has gone before. :-)

    Oh, and I nearly forgot ..... 42 Offer CyberSpace Control for the Beta Management of Global Perception.

    "Siberia Says, Got Another One? " .... By 4irw4y Posted Thursday 12th February 2009 17:14 GMT

    Crikey, 4irw4y, hit another Gold Bulls Eye and the Great Game has a New Leading Terrain Team .... which would be Different and most Welcome given the Dodgy Performance of Present Media Zeroes.

    Too Good to be True is an Excellent Stealth Weapon which Drives Right to the Heart of Any System before the System Realises its Lost Cause Predicament, whenever Doubt is removed from the Equation.

    Still cold out your way, 4irw4y, although one hopes that Nature's Naked Attractions are not frigid?

  109. Charles Smith

    Gordon Brown

    Our erstwhile Prime Minister in the UK has issued a press statement saying that the collision was not his fault but lessons will be learned.

  110. 4irw4y
    Coat

    Reset Button Pressed In Space

    @ amanfromMars >

    "Nature's Naked Attractions" -

    they're colding out packed in fur now, noses in snow, not too pregnant yet.

    I heard some radio, NASA math crew is likely not to approve the calculations of the killed Iridium sputnik's orbit done by an outsourced computational resource.

    Strange coincidence is also taking place, isn't the lost Iridium sputnik was one of those lifted by Russian spacetrucks? Truly a complex lifetime collaboration (-:

    There must be a cheque left... need a supercomputer... oh, an alien coat... lemmesee if there is any...

    73

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