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U.S. to release update regarding satellite debris in 72 hours: spokeswoman
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08:30, February 13, 2009

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The U.S. Strategic Command will publish an update regarding satellite debris on the command's public website for other governments' reference in 48 to 72 hours after a U.S. satellite collided with a Russian satellite over Siberia on Tuesday, an officer told Xinhua on Thursday.

The Joint Space Operation Center at the Vandenberg Air Force Base in California has been assessing the impact of the debris following Tuesday's incident. The center estimates on Thursday morning (US EST) that there are 500-600 pieces of debris. It will assess follow-on impact to other satellites.

Air Force Major Regina Winchester from the Strategic Command's Public Affairs Office said the Strategic Command is characterizing and cataloguing all the debris pieces and their potential danger to other satellites, the International Space Station and manned-flights.

She said the command routinely monitors 18,000 satellites in space and makes data available for other governments that own satellites.

She said all questions regarding communications with Russia should be directed to the U.S. Defense Department and the State Department.

Winchester said as far as she knows there is no collecting capability yet to clean out satellites that have stopped working or debris. And the space is becoming "more crowed" as governments around the world add more satellites. She said there are protocols and international conventions that governments follow to mitigate their satellites and to avoid incidents like this. But collisions are rare.

She said among the 18,000 satellites they track, this is the one of the few, if not the first collision so far.

One satellite owned by Iridium Satellite LLC, which operates a constellation of 66 low Earth orbiting ones that provide mobile voice and data communications globally, collided with a defunct Russian satellite at nearly 790 km over Siberia. The 560-kg Iridium 33 satellite was launched in 1997 while the 900-kg Russian satellite was launched in 1993.

Source: Xinhua



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