A small Russian spacecraft in orbit appears to have been struck by remnants of a destroyed Chinese satellite. It’s just the second time in history that an active spacecraft has collided with an artificial object while in orbit.
The collision took place between Russia’s Ball Lens in the Space (BLITS) spacecraft and China’s Fengyun 1C satellite, according to the Center for Space Standards & Innovation (CSSI), based in Colorado Springs, Colorado. The collision appears to have occurred on January 22, although it took over a month to determine what exactly hit the craft.
The Chinese material is considered to be “space junk” left over from when the Chinese craft was destroyed in a 2007 anti-satellite demonstration when the Fengyun 1C was intentionally demolished after exceeding its service life. The debris has posed a threat to satellites and crewed spacecraft ever since, according to Space.com.
China’s anti-satellite defense program aims at destroying satellites in space with the help of a missile, if needed. “It is necessary for China to have the ability to strike US satellites. This deterrent can provide strategic protection to Chinese satellites and the whole country's national security," said a January editorial in China’s state-run Global Times. China has since then conducted another test, in 2010.
The space collision involving BLITS was first reported on February 4 by Russian scientists Vasiliy Yurasov and Andrew Nazarenko, of the Institute for Precision Instrument Engineering (IPIE) in Moscow. They reported a “significant change” in the orbit of the BLITS satellite to CSSI, as well as changes in the spacecraft’s spin velocity and altitude. . . .
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