Raumfahrt - Failed Russian spy satellite falls to Earth in brilliant fireball



Kosmos-2551 created a funerary fire in the sky.


A failed Russian spy satellite crashed back to Earth early this morning (Oct. 20), burning up in a brilliant fireball spotted by many observers in the American Midwest.


The American Meteor Society (AMS) has so far received more than 80 reportsabout the fiery display, from people as far south as Tennessee and as far north as Michigan. The AMS has posted dramatic imagery captured by some of these observers, including a 27-second video from skywatcher Chris Johnson that shows the meteor blazing a trail through the skies above Fort Gratiot Township, Michigan.  

The fireball lit up around 12:43 a.m. EDT (0443) today, according to the AMS, leaving little doubt about its cause.

12:43 a.m. EDT is "the exact predicted time Kosmos-2551 passed over the region, and within the re-entry time uncertainty window given by Space Force. So I conclude that the ID with Kosmos-2551 is solid," astronomer and satellite tracker Jonathan McDowell, who's based at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, said via Twitter today.


Kosmos-2551 is a Russian reconnaissance satellite that launched on Sept. 9 but apparently failed shortly thereafter. The spacecraft had not adjusted its orbit once since liftoff, McDowell tweeted on Monday (Oct. 18), noting that Kosmos-2551 was expected to re-enter Earth's atmosphere the next day — a forecast that turned out to be off by less than an hour.

Kosmos-2551's incineration likely did not threaten anyone on the ground. The satellite "is thought to be only about 500 kg [1,100 pounds] and no debris is expected to reach the ground," McDowell said in another Monday tweet.


Space junk fireballs, while often spectacular, aren't particularly rare. Last year, for example, the re-entering third stage of a Soyuz rocket caused a brilliant sky show over parts of Australia during the launch of a Russian military satellite. 

Such incidents are becoming more common as humanity launches more and more satellites to orbit. This satellite boom concerns many experts, who stress that action is needed to make sure the space-junk issue doesn't get out of hand.

Quelle: SC


Did You See That Fireball That Lit Up The Sky Over Michigan?


If you looked to the sky last night (Wed 10/20/) at roughly 12:45 am there's a real good chance you saw a fireball that lit up the sky.

The mysterious object was spotted all over the state with reports coming in from Belleville, Clinton Township, Fraser, Freeland, Holly, Howell, Pontiac, Port Huron Romulus, Trenton Warren, White Lake, and even the west side of the state.

It's unclear exactly what the object was but more than likely it was a large meteor that was simply burning up in the atmosphere. I suppose it could be space junk but NASA tracks more than 27,000 pieces of orbital debris and they haven't reported anything yet.

When I was a kid I witnessed a satellite that crashed into Saginaw Bay and it looked really similar to this strange object. According to WDIV, the American Meteorological Society said that it wasn't a natural fireball and appears to be the re-entry of an unknown satellite or spent rocket body.
It's crazy to think how much garbage is floating in space around the earth. Don't believe me? Take a look at the image below which shows just how much orbital debris NASA tracks every single day.

The fireball which can be seen in the video below took a really long time to burn up. Normally a meteor is a quick flash in the sky that burns up rather quickly but that wasn't the case here.

Quelle: Cars108


What NASA says about fireball that streaked across Michigan sky

NASA has confirmed that the fireball that streaked across the Midwestern sky early Wednesday was a satellite.

"There are many accounts from the midwestern states of a bright long-lasting fireball seen around 12:43 a.m. EDT last evening ... This event was not caused by a natural object; it was produced by the reentry and fragmentation of a satellite over that area of the country," the agency said in a Facebook post on its NASA Meteor Watch page. 

At least one expert speculated that it was a failed Russian spy satellite.

A Harvard astrophysicist said he is "100% confident" it was, but doubts official confirmation of its origin will come.

Speculation began after the New York-based American Meteor Society received 81 reports of an eruption of green, yellow, red and white lights over the sky from witnesses including in Michigan; Illinois; Indiana; Kentucky; Ohio; and Ontario, Canada. The event was recorded at 12:43 a.m. by the AMS. 

The AMS collects and displays eyewitness accounts of meteors and fireballs and promotes "research activities of both amateur and professional astronomers who are interested in meteoric astronomy," according to its website.

Photo of the alleged Russian spy satellite taken by Matt E of Traverse City, a member of the American Meteor Society who described it as a "world changing event."
Photo taken by "Matt E" of Traverse City, a member of the American Meteor Society, who described the sighting as a "world changing event."  

Some viewers recorded their sightings on the society's website, with some commenting that they believed it was a comet and others referring to it as a meteorite or a fireball. 

Though initially reported as a fireball by the AMS, the organization concluded that it was likely "the re-entry of an unknown satellite or spent rocket body." 

Jonathan McDowell, an astrophysicist at Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, claims the object is a Russian spy satellite, Kosmos-2551, that had a failed launch on Sept. 9 and had been orbiting the Earth ever since. 

"We knew that it was going to re-enter sometime in the past 24 hours, a few days ago," said McDowell of the satellite.

Spotters were effusive.

"The most impressive meteorite I have ever witnessed," said Nathan V of Grand Rapids on the AMS website. "Spectacular!" 

In Traverse City, Matt E said on the AMS site that it was a "world changing event," while Wendy S near Onsted thought it was both "wow and scary."  Some said they heard the object make a sound; others focused on a thick tail of smoke that trailed it. 

McDowell said Kosmos-2551 had been going around the world 17 times a day since its launch, with its speed decreasing after every rotation due to friction with the atmosphere.

When McDowell saw reports Wednesday morning that people in Michigan saw what he described as "clearly space debris," he checked the satellite's orbit and he said it became the obvious conclusion to him.

What distinguishes space debris from objects like fireballs, meteors or space rocks, said McDowell, is the speed at which they travel.

At a "mere 17,000 miles an hour," objects like what he said is Kosmos-2551 are going much slower than something like a shooting star, and take a relatively long time to break up.

McDowell added that some of the colors witnesses described seeing can be attributed to different materials like metals on a satellite melting or burning up as the satellite descends.

"It was exactly the right time in the right place during the re-entry window that we were expecting it to break up," he said, referring to the 12:43 a.m. time stamp. 

The astrophysicist relied on tracking data from a website,, that uses radar to track objects in space and makes much of that information available to people, but an account is required in order to "check that you're not like a North Korean spy," McDowell said. 

He said it is unlikely for an agency like the United States Space Force to confirm that the object was Kosmos-2551, but what usually follows is an update with a particular time and specific latitude or longitude, and to him that would be a solid enough assurance. 

The Space Force, which monitors space activity around the world, did not immediately respond to a request for comment. 

McDowell added that this type of incident is not uncommon. 

"This is something that happens every few months," he said. "Somewhere in the world, there's a satellite re-entry, and it's fairly easy to identify. But for any one area, it's an unusual thing, and so people freak out." 

Quelle: The Detroit News

Failed Russian Satellite Falls Back to Earth as Seen in West Michigan Sky; Space Junk Fireballs Becoming More Common

A bright streak across the sky of west Michigan was seen around 12:45 am on Wednesday, October 20. Wood TV reported that astronomer Jonathan McDowell from the Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory confirmed that the bolide was what was left of a failed Russian satellite instead of a meteoroid that is re-entering the Earth.


In recent years, spectacular shows of space junk falling back to Earth has become more common. Such incidents are expected to increase in number as humanity launches more and more satellites in orbit.

 Failed Russian Satellite Falls Back to Earth as Seen in West Michigan Sky; Space Junk Fireballs Becoming More Common
(Photo: Pixabay)
Failed Russian Satellite Falls Back to Earth as Seen in West Michigan Sky; Space Junk Fireballs Becoming More Common


Failed Russian Satellite Falls Back to Earth as Fireball

The American Meteor Society has been collecting reports of fireballs, including the most recent one of the falling failed Russian satellite. But they confirmed on Wednesday morning that the object was not a bolide or an extremely bright meteoroid.


At 5 am on the same day, the group has already received 80 reports of the fireball in which many has described a persistent, glowing train tailing the fireball itself.

Moreover, other states have also reported sightings of the fireball. Residents from Michigan and in Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, and as far away as West Virginia and Tennessee also saw the failed Russian satellite re-enter Earth's atmosphere.

In his tweet on Monday, McDowell said that the Russian reconnaissance satellite known as Kosmos-2551 was launched on September 9, 2021, but failed shortly when it had not adjusted its orbit since liftoff. He noted that the satellite was expected to re-enter Earth on Tuesday, which turned out to be off by less than one hour.

Fortunately, the incineration of Kosmos-2551 did not threaten anyone on the ground. As McDowell predicted, there is no debris that hit the ground because the satellite only weighs about 1,100 pounds (500 kilograms).

Increasing Number of Space Junk Fireballs

Space junk fireballs are spectacular to see, but they have become quite common in recent years. According to, the re-entering stage three of a Soyuz rocket also caused a brilliant sky show over the skies of Australia.

Also, CBC reported that fireballs streaking across the sky in March set off an epic hunt for space junk, which re-entered Earth that almost hit a trailer home with an older couple inside in Washington state. The space junk is the remains of a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket that hit the Earth on March 25 and created a light show captured on video.

Although most of the remains of the rocket disintegrated upon its re-entry into Earth's atmosphere, some of it survived and smashed into Earth's surface.

As reported, incidents like these are expected to become more and more common as humanity launches an increasing number of satellites to orbit. However, the booming industry of satellites is also causing some concerns to many experts who emphasized that action is needed to control space junk and prevent it from getting out of hand.


Raumfahrt+Astronomie-Blog von CENAP 0