Iridium To Replace Lost Satellite

 - February 27, 2009, 8:53 AM

Iridium said it has begun taking steps to replace a lost communication satellite with one of eight in-orbit spares. The collision of a 2,000-pound decommissioned Russian satellite with the smaller Iridium craft on February 10 created a swirling field of debris but left only a tiny gap in Iridium’s 66-satellite constellation, resulting in brief outages for some customers. Due to the “mesh” design of the Iridium network few customers are affected, according to a spokeswoman. Iridium anticipates the spare satellite will be in place by the end of the month. Russia’s Cosmos 2251 communications satellite–launched in 1993 but out of service since 1995–collided with the 1,234-pound Iridium 33 satellite at 11:55 a.m. EST at an altitude of 490 miles. After losing contact with the satellite, Iridium alerted the U.S. Air Force, which operates a space surveillance network responsible for tracking some 19,000 orbital objects, some as small as a baseball. According to NASA, the Russian satellite drifted down from a higher orbit, placing it in the path of the Iridium satellite. Although this was the first known collision between two intact satellites, the agency said it probably won’t be the last.