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US military SATELLITE suddenly BLOWS UP: 'Temperature spike' blamed
But WHY did it suddenly heat up, eh?
In a story reminiscent of the movie Gravity, near-Earth orbits have a bunch of new space junk chunks to worry about after a satellite exploded.
After an event was first noticed by orbital tracking company CelesTrak, the US Air Force has confirmed to Space News that the 20-year-old Defense Meteorological Satellite Program Flight 13 (DMSP-13) experienced a temperature spike on February 3 and apparently exploded.
The US Navy said that after the temperature spike, the satellite lost its attitude control. While the Navy was deciding on its next move, it spotted the debris.
However, the event didn't become public until researcher TS Kelso Tweeted:
It appears we've had another debris event with 26 new pieces of debris from DMSP 5D-2 F13 launch. Analyzing circumstances now.— T.S. Kelso (@TSKelso) February 26, 2015
TLEs suggest event occurred on Feb 3 at ~1715 UTC: pic.twitter.com/dpDnK058ze— T.S. Kelso (@TSKelso) February 26, 2015
Event time appears closer to 1723 UTC. Debris plane does not align with planes of B, C, or E: pic.twitter.com/9NTx1D9lKn— T.S. Kelso (@TSKelso) February 26, 2015
(TLEs mentioned above refer to “two-line elements”, the standard data format for presenting position and velocity of orbital objects.)
There are six other DMSPs in orbit, with a seventh possible for a 2016 launch. DMSP-13 had already been retired to a backup role, and the Navy doesn't expect its loss to have a major impact on operations, beyond a small reduction in the real-time data available to tactical users. ®