2 Satellites Collide: Space Station at 'Elevated' Risk

By John Johnson,  Newser Staff
Posted Feb 11, 2009 6:50 PM CST
In this file image from NASA TV, the International Space Station is shown orbiting Earth on Dec. 22, 2008.   (AP Photo/NASA TV)
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(Newser) – In a space first, two fully intact satellites have collided about 500 miles above Siberia, the Washington Post reports. Yesterday's collision—between a commercial satellite owned by the US company Iridium and a Russian one thought to be defunct—puts the International Space Station at a "very small" but "elevated" risk of being struck by debris. It also endangers about 20 other commercial satellites in the area.

The space station is in a lower orbit, at about 220 miles above earth, and it may have to perform what NASA terms a "debris avoidance maneuver," something it's done about a dozen times previously. "It gets down to probabilities," said a NASA spokesman. "Space being very big, these pieces of debris being very small, the odds are very high that they're not going to collide."