A US meteorological satellite that retired eight years ago collapsed in orbit and invaded at least 16 space debris, according to government representatives.
The satellite, called NOAA-17 because it was operated by the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, was launched in 2002 and was abolished in 2013 after equipment began to fail. NOAA-17 was disbanded on March 10, according to the California-based Space Force’s 18th Space Control Squadron, as first reported by SpaceNews.
“At this point, debris poses little threat to the International Space Station and other important space assets,” NOAA officials wrote in a statement.
Related: How do small pieces of space debris cause incredible damage?
# 18 SPCS confirmed the dissolution of NOAA17 (# 27453, 2002-06-24) on March 10, 2021 at 0711UTC. NOAA 17 was discontinued in 2013. We are tracking 16 related parts and there are no signs of a collision. #spaceflightsafety #spacedebris @ spacetrackorg March 19, 2021
In a tweet released Thursday (March 18), the 18th Space Control Corps said there were no signs that the collision caused the satellite to collapse. NOAA did not provide details on the cause of the incident, and the 18th Space Control Corps did not respond to requests for more information about the incident.
NOAA-17 is one of a series of satellites launched by the agency to monitor weather conditions, which, according to the agency, constantly look down on the Earth’s belt experiencing morning conditions. During its operation, the NOAA-17 orbited the Earth from pole to pole at an altitude of about 500 miles (800 kilometers), according to the World Meteorological Organization.
The International Space Station zooms the Earth at an average altitude of about 250 miles (400 km).
According to NOAA, the design life of the satellite was 3 years, but NOAA-17 could be used for about 11 years until it was abolished in April 2013 due to equipment failure. At that time, spacecraft managers took several steps to reduce the possibility of interfering with other satellites, according to a NOAA statement on this month’s collapse.
“When abolished, NOAA satellite operations turned off all spacecraft transmitters, removed batteries, opened thruster valves to deplete nitrogen, and kept solar arrays away from the sun,” officials wrote. .. “These measures were taken to minimize the risk of radio frequency interference with other spacecraft after decommissioning, as the satellite is as inactive as possible.”
The NOAA-16, the predecessor of the satellite, which was launched in 2000 and has been in operation for nearly 14 years, had a similar fate in 2015.
# 18 SPCS confirmed the collapse of YUNHAI 1-02 (# 44547, 2019-063A) that occurred on March 18, 2021 at 0741 UTC. Tracking 21 relevant parts – analysis is in progress. #spaceflightsafety #spacedebris @ spacetrackorg March 22, 2021
Coincidentally, the 18th Space Control Squadron discovered the collapse of another meteorological satellite on Thursday. This time, it is the sea of clouds 1-02 in China, which was launched in September 2019. According to the statement, the squadron is tracking 21 debris from the incident.
The greater the number of technologies in space, whether operational or not, the greater the risk of collision. And because of the incredible speed of objects orbiting the Earth, such collisions then tend to significantly confuse debris that can cause additional impact. International best practices for satellite operations require that the Earth’s atmosphere pull the spacecraft down to a distance sufficient to destroy it within about 25 years.
Send an email to Meghan Bartels at [email protected] or follow her on Twitter @ meghanbartels. Follow us on Twitter @ Spacedotcom and Facebook.
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