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Debris could pose threat to China orbiters

THE debris left by a satellite collision above Siberia poses a threat to some of China's satellites, scientists said yesterday.

Two telecommunications satellites, launched earlier by the United States and Russia, rammed into each other early Wednesday around 790 kilometers above Earth, according to Zhao Changyin, a researcher at the Purple Mountain Astronomical Observatory in Nanjing.

A monitoring network run by the Chinese Academy of Sciences is now searching for the debris of the damaged satellites to ensure the safety of Chinese satellites, said Zhao.

The debris, which is spreading from the site of the collision, may disperse gradually, said Du Heng, a space debris expert with the academy and a researcher at the Space Science and Application Research Center.

The debris may affect satellites moving in an orbital area 700 to 900 kilometers above Earth, including China's Fengyun-1 meteorological satellite and the Ziyuan-1 observatory satellite.

"We can calculate whether our satellites will be affected when the data from the debris cloud is available," Du said.

The information will help China readjust the position of its satellites if necessary.

Space collisions have occurred in the past, though not between two intact spacecraft. In 1996, a French spy satellite ran into the remains of an Ariane V16 rocket carrier. On January 17, the debris of a Chinese-made Long March-4 rocket collided with the remains of a US rocket.


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