Chinese Space Debris Collides with Russian Satellite

Article written: 8 Mar , 2013
Updated: 30 Dec , 2015

According to Analytical Graphics, Inc. (AGI), the Center for Space Standards and Innovation (CSSI) has determined that on January 22, 2013 debris from the Chinese FENGYUN 1C collided with Russia’s BLITS satellite. The FENGYUAN 1C is the satellite that was destroyed by China on January 11, 2007 in a test of an anti-satellite missile. The collision changed the orbit of the Russian satellite, along with its spin velocity and attitude. The animation above is from AGI and it depicts the event.

The collision wasn’t reported until February 4, 2013 when engineers at the Institute for Precision Instrument Engineering (IPIE) in Moscow reported to CSSI a significant change in the orbit for their BLITS satellite. BLITS is tracked to high precision by the International Laser Ranging Service (ILRS), and IPIE had detected a sudden decrease of 120 meters in the semi-major axis of its orbit and a change in its spin velocity and attitude.

Teams looking at the event had to work backwards to review archival satellite data and determine what piece of space debris could be large enough to cause a change in orbit in the BLITS satellite. They found a close approach between debris from FENGYUN 1C and the BLITS satellite. Although the predicted distance would seem to preclude a collision, the fact that the close approach occurred within 10 seconds of the estimated change in orbit made it appear likely that this piece of FENGYUN 1C debris actually collided with BLITS, AGI reported.

You can read more at AGI’s website

This video, below, shows the distribution of space debris created by the Chineese anti-satellite test in January 2007 over a time frame of more than 1 year.

12 Responses

  1. Important to note that the publicly available data on these objects used to compute the close approach has a lot of inaccuracy. The US military likely has much more accurate data on the two objects, but does not release that publicly. So this is another example of why you can’t do collision prediction using the publicly available data.

  2. Alex Charyna says

    Brian, the US military uses AGI’s software. 😉

    • Not for official maintenance of the catalog or doing this sort of analysis. AGI recently won a contract to develop the next generation of software, but it’s still a ways off.

      And there’s a difference between the software to do the analysis and the data input to the software.

  3. Tim Amato says

    ” The FENGYUAN 1C is the satellite that was destroyed by China on January 11, 2007 in a test of an anti-satellite missile. ”
    Mission accomplished.

  4. Member
    Aqua4U says

    ACK! Space Junk! Remember the Devo tune? Commemorating nuke powered Kosmos 954’s crashing into Canada in 1978…Poor Sally!

    Now where did I put my maser powered satellite de-orbiter?

  5. GregtheThird says

    That cloud visible above the Kremlin is coming from the heads of the Russain defense ministry.

  6. The Chinese are morons…..

    • Robin Vanrusselt says

      I would not immediately agree, after all they invented f.e fireworks… However, with other cowboy nations (North Korea, Iran etc.) faring into space I fear to see more of this moron-like behaviour in the future 🙁

  7. EugenieKochin says

    Please post news about latest lake vostok findings – apparently new species very different from all others we know of.

  8. bugzzz says

    Clearly the Chinese don’t play well in space. BAD CHINESE, BAD!

Comments are closed.