Russian and US satellites collide - doesn't power give way to sail?

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In the first collision involving two intact satellites, the Russian Kosmos 2251 and American Iridium 33 collided two days ago, about 500 miles above Siberia

Two things struck me from the various reports:

  • The Iridium folk reckon that their satellite "was hit by" Kosmos, and
  • "Russia has not commented on claims the satellite was out of control."

Now as I understand it, Kosmos was launched at least a couple of years prior to the Iridium bird and was decommissioned a couple of years later - and furthermore, it had no maneuvering capability to begin with.  So I'm left to wonder how a non-maneuverable dead satellite can ever be described as "out of control" - surely it'll keep going on it's existing (and thus well-known) trajectory until that orbit decays (again, something known and predictable) or something else hits it?

Furthermore, given that Kosmos was already up before Iridium launched, and that the Iridium bird was the only one that could maneuver, surely if either "hit the other", then it was the Iridium bird that "hit" Kosmos, no?

It seems to me that whoever is supposed to be "watching the road" at Iridium has been grossly negligent and is trying to shift the blame.

But I guess Iridium is, after all's said and done, an American company - the land where, if you drive your car into a tree, you sue the person who planted the tree!

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This page contains a single entry by Jon published on February 12, 2009 3:46 PM.

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