Defunct Soviet Reconnaissance Satellite May Hit Earth
MOSCOW, A decommissioned Soviet military satellite will burn up in the atmosphere Sunday in an uncontrolled descent and surviving fragments may hit Earth, according to an aerospace defense official.
The military is actively monitoring the satellite using its space tracking network, which has indicated that it will impact the Pacific Ocean on Sunday, Colonel Alexei Zolotukhin said Friday.
“As of February 7, 2014 the fragments are expected to fall on February 16. The exact impact time and location of the fragments from the Kosmos-1220 satellite may change due to external factors,” Zolotukhin said.
Uncertainty over the reentry time means that the satellite, orbiting in a high-inclination orbit, could impact nearly any point on Earth's surface, including populated areas.
The size and weight of the Kosmos-1220, a naval electronic surveillance satellite, remain unknown, although the Tsiklon-2 rocket it was launched on in 1980 has a maximum payload capacity of around three metric tons.
Modern satellites are designed to enter so-called “graveyard orbits,” far from operational spacecraft, at the end of their service life in order to reduce the accumulation of space junk in orbit.
In 2009 another decommissioned Kosmos satellite moving at over 40,000 kilometers an hour (26,000 miles per hour) collided with a US Iridium telecom satellite in the first ever high-speed crash between two manmade objects in space.
The accident spewed thousands of pieces of space junk into low Earth orbit which, according to a representative from the Vympel space defense company, increased the risk of damage and loss-of-life for future spaceflights by 20 to 30 percent.
“Today, fully five years after the accident, there are still some 1,500 large fragments of the satellites in orbit, which are a tremendous threat. These objects will be in orbit for another 20 to 30 years,” the spokesperson told RIA Novosti on Monday.
Russian spy satellite burns up in Earth's atmosphere
The Kosmos-1220 - a military signal intelligence satellite - whose fragments were expected to crash somewhere on Earth, has burned up on reentry to the Earth's atmosphere, Russian Space Command said.
The fragments burned up at 17:58 Moscow time (13:58 GMT), Colonel Dmitry Zenin, spokesman for the Russian Defense Ministry troops, told Itar-Tass.
The Space Command was monitoring the satellite's descent by electronic and laser-optic observation, Colonel Aleksey Zolotukhin, spokesman for the Russian Space Forces, told RIA Novosti.
The Kosmos-1220 is a Soviet signal intelligence satellite launched into orbit in November 1980 from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan, then part of the Soviet Union. Its mission ended in 1982.
The satellite was part of the Soviet naval missile targeting system.
An understandable degree of unease always accompanies falling satellites, but the event is nothing exotic. And though accidents occasionally do happen, in which a piece of space junk might crash into Earth, consequences are hardly ever severe.
NASA's statistics are evidence of that. They say an average of one such fragment survives Earth's atmosphere daily, and hardly anyone notices, while records of any property damage throughout history have been almost negligible.
Russian, American and German satellite debris, as heavy as 160-400 kilograms, had previously fallen within hundreds of kilometers of populated areas in the Pacific with very few serious incidents reported.
Quelle: Voice of Russia