Tuesday February 10th saw the accidental collision of an operational, and privately owned communications satellite (Iridium 33) and an old, unused Russian satellite (Cosmos-2251). Celestrak are now providing tracking data for the debris of this collision and I have patched it through to Google Earth using my Satellite KML code. You can download the Google Earth file here to follow events in real time.
The crash, which happened over 400 miles above Siberia, destroyed the derelict Russian satellite and one of the 66 objects that make up the Iridium mesh, or constellation. The constellation provides voice and data connections for satellite phones as well as other services. It has around 300,000 clients across the globe, including the US Department of Defense and scientists at the South Pole. Iridium services have now been restored and company was in fact prepared for this scenario, even if they were not expecting it.
You can see from these screenshots, taken this morning, that the two sets of debris (Iridium in white, Russian in red) are still more-or-less following their original orbits. Celestrak is providing data for the radar-trackable particles, and smaller fragments do not show up here. The pieces of debris have begun to drift apart and will eventually begin to spread out and move more eccentrically as the weeks go by.
I had been meaning to organise my ‘Satellites on Google Earth’ code, and have been prompted by these events to create a summary page which you can find linked at the top of the page or by clicking here.