The Iridium 33 and Cosmos 2251 communications satellites collided over northern Siberia. The impact between the Iridium Satellite and the 16-year-old satellite launched by the Russian government occurred in February 2009

Effects of Worst Satellite Breakups in History Still Felt Today

by Leonard David,’s Space Insider Columnist
Date: 28 January 2013 Time: 07:01 AM ET

The anniversaries of two major space junk events — China’s anti-satellite test on Jan. 11, 2007, and the destructive fender-bender between a defunct Soviet Union-era satellite with an operating U.S. spacecraft on Feb. 10, 2009 — are receiving special attention in orbital debris circles.

The Chinese anti-satellite test merited a nod by the Air Force Space Command (AFSPC) Public Affairs Office from Peterson Air Force Base in Colorado, labeling it an “Anniversary Milestone: Satellite Shootdown.”

The Jan. 11 AFSPC release noted that the Chinese military used a ground-based missile to hit and destroy its aging Fengyun-1C weather satellite, which was orbiting more than 500 miles (805 kilometers) in space back in 2007.

“The test raised concerns about the vulnerability of U.S. satellites and a possible arms race in space,” the press release stated.

The anti-satellite test created more than 100,000 pieces of debris orbiting the planet, with about 2,600 of them more than 4 inches (10 centimeters) across, according to a NASA estimate.

“We carefully monitor those and the thousands of other bits of orbital debris to help provide for safe passage for those who traverse those orbits,” the AFSPC statement concluded.

Read more: Worst Satellite Breakups in History: We're Still Feeling Effects |

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