Washington: A Russian satellite may have been damaged after a piece of space debris left over from a 2007 Chinese missile test collided with it earlier this year, an American researcher has claimed.
     
The collision appears to have happened on January 22 when when it is thought that a piece of the 'Feng Yun 1C' weather satellite, which was destroyed in the 2007 Chinese missile test, accidentally hit the Russian satellite, said T S Kelso, a senior research astrodynamicist at the Colorado-based Center for Space Standards & Innovation.
     
The collision changed the orientation and orbit of the Russian satellite, which was being used in scientific experiments, Kelso said. It may have also damaged it.
     
"There has been a piece of debris catalogued by US Strategic Command as a result of that collision," Kelso said.      

"That would suggest that at least a part of the satellite broke off because of the collision," media quoted Kelso as saying.
      
It was February 4 when two scientists with the Institute for Precision Instrument Engineering in Moscow noticed a change in the orbit of the satellite, known as BLITS, Kelso
said.
      
The scientists estimated the change happened January 22. They contacted Kelso because CSSI operates a service that looks for close satellite approaches, he said.
      
CSSI looked for objects that may have had a nearby approach with the BLITS satellite around the time of the collision. The Chinese debris was the only object they found.
      
Although the predicted distance between the debris and the satellite seemed to preclude a collision, the fact that the close approach happened within 10 seconds of the change in orbit made the Feng Yun 1C debris the likely culprit, Kelso wrote in a blog post.
     
CSSI is now working with the Russian scientists to find out more about the collision. BLITS is a small glass sphere that reflected laser beams for research. Because of the collision, the satellite now faces the wrong way and cannot be used, Kelso said.
     
The collision also sped up the satellite's spin period from 5.6 seconds to 2.1 seconds, Kelso said.      

China launched the Feng Yun 1C polar orbit weather satellite in 1999. It was destroyed in 2007 when China targeted it for a test of a ground-based, medium-range ballistic missile.
     
US tracking sensors determined the missile collision created hundreds of pieces of space debris, according to an American official at the time. The test prompted formal protests from the United States and several US allies including Canada and Australia.

(Agencies)

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