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Satellites face risk from Chinese debris

tech reviews Updated: Sep 27, 2007 02:34 IST
BR Srikanth
BR Srikanth
Hindustan Times
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At least 300 satellites worth billions of dollars face the risk of mutilation by a cloud of whirling fragments set off in space by a Chinese anti-satellite test early this year.

The hazard will increase over the years, with more debris cascading into the paths of these satellites, said Nicholas Johnson, chief scientist for orbital debris with NASA.

In a show of military might, the Fengyun-1C meteorological satellite was blasted by a Chinese ballistic interceptor on January 11, 2007, triggering thousands of splinters in space — from 200 km to 4,000 km from the earth.

Most of these pieces are at a height of 350 km, very close to the International Space Station (ISS), an outpost in space.

The debris in space could set off a chain reaction. Even pieces measuring one centimetre but hurtling down at 10 km per second could either leave a satellite inoperable or split it into hundreds of fragments.

These splinters in turn could pose threat to satellites that support communications or remote sensing operations or even scientific payloads, Johnson told the Hindutsan Times.

A group of ISRO scientists led by AS Ganeshan has evolved a model to prevent potential damage from space debris to indigenous remote sensing and communication satellites.