Russian satellite hit by Chinese missile test debris

A small, active Russian satellite has suffered damage after the spacecraft collided with an orbiting space debris believed to have come from a destroyed Chinese satellite. The collision took place on January 22 when a piece of the Chinese Fengyun 1C satellite hit the 17-pound Russian small Ball Lens In The Space (BLITS) retroreflector satellite.

The Colorado-based Center for Space Standards & Innovation (CSSI) reported that the debris from China’s spacecraft has been orbiting the planet since 2007, when the satellite was destroyed in an anti-satellite demonstration. T.S Kelso, a technical program manager at CSSI said that the Fengyun 1C junk has been a danger to other satellites and manned spacecraft ever since.

BLITS is Russia’s retroreflector demonstration satellite specifically built for precision satellite laser-ranging experiments. Weighing 7.5 kilos, the Russian satellite was launched back in 2009 with a lifespan of five years. Until now, it is not yet clear if BLITS will still be able to continue operations or if it was totally damaged by the Chinese space debris.

Russian scientists from the Institute for Precision Instrument Engineering (IPIE) reported the collision on February 4 to CSSI following a noticeable “abrupt change” on the spin period of BLITS from 5.6 seconds to 2.1 seconds. They also reported a sudden decrease of 120 meters in the semi-major axis of its orbit.

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