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Collision possibly caused by U.S. satellite's crash into "junk orbit": official
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08:29, February 13, 2009

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The collision between two satellites of the United States and Russia on Tuesday would be the result of a failure on the part of the U.S. Iridium satellite, an official of the Russian Defense Ministry told Xinhua Thursday.

The orbit about 800 km above the Earth is called the "junk orbit," where defunct satellites from different countries gather together, said Yuri Ivanov, an official of the defense ministry's press office.

He presumed that the incident might be caused by the U.S. satellite's mistaken crash into the "junk orbit."

The Interfax news agency quoted space technology expert Igor Lisov as saying that the Iridium Satellite LLC would have prevented the incident.

The U.S. side might not know or ignore the possibility that the two satellites would smash into each other, he said.

Earlier in the day, a spokeswoman for the Maryland-based Iridium Satellite LLC told Xinhua that Tuesday's collision is not the result of a failure on the part of the Iridium satellite or its technology.

According to information shared with the company by various U.S. government organizations that monitor satellites and other space objects (such as debris), it appears that the satellite's loss was the result of a collision with a non-operational Russian satellite, she said.

Iridium Satellite LLC operates a constellation of 66 low Earth orbiting satellites that provide voice and data services for areas not served by ground-based communication networks.

The 560-kg Iridium 33, which collided with the defunct 900-kg Russian satellite nearly 790 km over Siberia, was launched in 1997.

Source: Xinhua

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