How the Fermi Spacecraft Almost Got Taken Out by a Relic of the Cold War

Article written: 1 May , 2013
Updated: 23 Dec , 2015
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As a space telescope scientist or satellite operator, the last thing you want to hear is that your expensive and possibly one-of-a kind — maybe irreplaceable — spacecraft is in danger of colliding with a piece of space junk. On March 29, 2012, scientists from the Fermi Gamma-ray Space Telescope were notified that their spacecraft was at risk from a collision. And the object heading towards the Fermi spacecraft at a relative speed of 44,000 km/h (27,000 mph) wasn’t just a fleck of paint or tiny bolt.

Fermi was facing a possible direct hit by a 1,400 kg (3,100-pound) defunct Russian spy satellite dating back to the Cold War, named Cosmos 1805. If the two satellites met in orbit, the collision would release as much energy as two and a half tons of high explosives, destroying both spacecraft and creating more pieces of space junk in the process.

But this story has a happy ending, with the Fermi telescope still operating and continuing its mission to map the highest-energy light in the universe, all thanks to a little orbital traffic control.

You can watch the video here for the complete story, or read more at the Fermi website about how the Fermi Space Telescope dodged a speeding bullet.

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9 Responses

  1. Grimbold says

    We need to get an international agreement that any new satellite must have the ability to deorbit and burn up once its mission is over.

  2. "Me" says

    For years I have tried to feed the idea we need a safe way to remove these obsolete Sats(any kind). Some suggested “low-orbit-re-entry-burn-up”. Some say “self-destruct”. It must be done correctly w/all parts to be completely disintegrated if chosen to self destruct. Something must be done with in the next few years. …PEACE!

    • Tony Trenton says

      Ge the Mafia involved . They have been into garbage collection for years .

      • "Me" says

        lol..Marfia….Thatta boy Tony! Marfia….lol Great come back! The Big Apple to Chitown & points south & west. The mob actually were into garbage big time. Unions! I woinder what “local” they’ll be under?…lol. It was a front years ago & a good one too! I can just picture them now floating around shooting at a Russian spy Sats. Hey, they’ll do a great job too. End of the Sats as we know it….lol. take care buddy.

  3. Umm March 29, 2012… are we a little low on recent news?

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