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China test satellite debris poses space threat

NASA says Fengyun-1C missile test produced 3,000 pieces of debris

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Three years after the Chinese blew up a satellite in space with a missile the debris from that explosion continues to grow.

NASA' s Orbital Debris Program Office last week said the number of debris officially cataloged from the Chinese's Fengyun-1C spacecraft anti-satellite test in 2007 has now surpassed 3,000. By mid-September 2010, the tally had reached 3,037, of which 97% remained in the Earth's orbit, posing distinct hazards to hundreds of operational satellites, the office stated.The debris from the Fengyun-1C spacecraft represents 22% of all cataloged objects passing through low Earth orbit or below 2,000 kilometers.

NASA' s Orbital Debris Program Office this summer said that while more than 4,700 space missions have taken place worldwide since the 1960s, only 10 missions account for one-third of all cataloged objects currently in Earth orbit and of that, six of these 10 debris-producing events occurred within the past 10 years. Debris from China, the US and the former Soviet Union spacecraft make up majority of junk floating in space. Approximately 19,000 objects larger than 10 cm are known to exist, NASA stated.

According to NASA the Top 10 space junk producing missions are:

Name Year of Breakup Debris items
Fengyun-1C 2007 2,841
Cosmos 2251 2009 1,267
STEP 2 Rocket Body 1996 713
Iridium 33 2009 521
Cosmos 2421 2008 509
SPOT 1 Rocket Body 1986 492
OV2-1/LCS 2 Rocket Body 1965 473
Nimbus 4 Rocket Body 1970 374
TES Rocket Body 2001 370
CBERS 1 Rocket Body 2000 343

In September the Air Force sent up its Space-Based Space Surveillance satellite to monitor space junk.


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