An American satellite under the Navy’s jurisdiction experienced a “catastrophic” explosion today and now, is a whole bunch of space junk hurtling at breakneck speed.
A satellite in the low orbit (500 Km above earth), belonging to the United States Navy exploded today, confirmed U.S Air Force. The 20-year-old Defense Meteorological Satellite Program Flight 13 (DMSP-F13) suffered a “catastrophic event” and now has been transformed into space junk orbiting around the earth.
The event was first noticed by orbital tracking company CelesTrak. According to the official sources, the satellite experienced a fatal temperature spike on February 3 and apparently exploded. The U.S. Navy confirmed that after the temperature spike, the satellite lost its attitude control. In simpler terms, the satellite could no longer self-adjust or alter its trajectory to maintain in orbit. Even while the Navy was deciding on its next move, it spotted the debris. Despite the profound event, the news didn’t become public until researcher TS Kelso tweeted.
The satellite won’t be missed much though. There are six other DMSPs in orbit, with a seventh scheduled for a 2016 launch. DMSP-13 had been retired to a backup role for quite some and its destruction is unlikely to have any major impact on weather forecasting operations. Still, losing the satellite may have caused some minor issues with real-time weather data transmission, which must have been sorted pretty quickly and easily.
Though an aging satellite, which was nowhere close in terms of speed of modern-day satellites, DMSP-13 was indispensable back in the 1990s. Launched in 1995 DMSP-13 provided real-time weather imagery to Air Force and Navy forecasters allowing them to confidently predict weather patterns and ensure flights and ships had a safe passage, circumventing bad weather.
Development and launch of newer satellites meant the DMSP-13’s role being gradually reduced and in 2006, the satellite was officially moved into the backup role.
The explosion has resulted in the formation of 43 pieces of debris that currently do not pose any major threat, unless they suddenly change their trajectory or that of any other object in space via collision. Though it has yet to be corroborated, it is expected the debris of the satellite will slowly lose altitude and hurtle back into the upper atmosphere where they are more than likely to burn up long before they make a reentry.
Explosion of a satellite is one of the most dangerous events that can happen in space. With no gravity to pull or slow down, the objects can continue on their hurtled trajectory at breakneck speeds.
[Image Credit |Becuo]