Space junk: experimental Russian satellite exploded in orbit

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 Space debris: experimental Russian satellite exploded in orbit

The Russian satellite KOSMOS 2499 exploded last month, according to the 18th Space Defense Squadron Twitter account.

After the satellite broke apart, 85 separate fragments of space debris formed at an altitude of 1169 km. The accident occurred on January 4, 2023, but its cause remains unknown.

At such a high altitude, it would take decades for debris to deorbit and burned up in the Earth's atmosphere.

But in fact, this is the second accident of the satellite. The first fragmentation occurred on October 23, 2021, according to Jonathan McDowell, an astronomer at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics who also tracks space debris. The event created 22 trackable debris.

This satellite has a curious history. Russia secretly launched COSMOS 2499 on May 23, 2014. But tracking showed that the satellite was performing unusual maneuvers, leading some to speculate that it could be an experimental anti-satellite weapon, a vehicle to service other satellites, or a space debris collector.

Institute of Technology stated that the satellite was intended to test experimental plasma-ion thrusters.

Both the first and now second fragmentation incident are believed to have been caused by an explosion of the satellite's propulsion system. LeoLabs, Inc., commercial supplier Mapping and Tracking in Low Earth Orbit, also tweeted about the current situation, saying their analysis indicated a low-intensity explosion “due to the asymmetry of the debris cloud and the magnitude of its velocity.”

LeoLabs said another identical space satellite, Cosmos 2491, exploded in 2020, and this event was associated with the explosion of the propulsion system.

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