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Were the Russkies Testing a Satellite Killer?

February 15, 2009

Now I’m no mad scientist, remember I’m strictly Dr. Normal, but the first collision between two human launched orbiting objects that weren’t space junk but functioning satellites raises some major questions

Two big communications satellites collided in the first-ever crash of two intact spacecraft in orbit, shooting out a pair of massive debris clouds and posing a slight risk to the international space station.

NASA said it will take weeks to determine the full magnitude of the crash, which occurred nearly 500 miles over Siberia on Tuesday.

The collision involved an Iridium commercial satellite, which was launched in 1997, and a Russian satellite launched in 1993 and believed to be nonfunctioning. The Russian satellite was out of control, Matney said.

Iridium Holdings LLC has a system of 65 active satellites which relay calls from portable phones that are about twice the size of a regular mobile phone. It has more than 300,000 subscribers. The U.S. Department of Defense is one of its largest customers.

Now this could all be a Quinkydink but the odds of such a collision really are huge. There may be tens of thousands of pieces of space junk, but the number is laughably small when you consider the area we’re talking about. Which means a collision is still a long shot. Now long shots do happen and the dreams of fairy princesses sometimes come true, but mostly they don’t.

Which makes it more likely that the Russian satellite was not out of control, but was part of a controlled test. Satellite killers are not a new piece of technology, but the kicker is that the target was an Iridium Satellite. Russia has been jealous of Iridium satellites for a while now. And Sat phones are a major strategic resource when you’re operating a military org. While knocking out surveillance satellites would be an obvious use for satellite killers, Iridium satellites are much easier targets and if you’re going to fight a war, taking out the enemy’s communications is a much higher priority than taking out his surveillance gear.

So color me suspicious, but I’d say the Russkies are picking a new fish Prez to test out their toys.

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