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Mystery change in satellite orbit blamed on Chinese debris strike may not be true (Updated)

11 Mar 2013, 15:14 UTC
Mystery change in satellite orbit blamed on Chinese debris strike may not be true (Updated)
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The mystery change in the orbital parameters of a small Russian satellite have now have been explained: it was apparently caused by a debris strike and the debris came from a Chinese anti-satelltie missile test. On 4 February, the Russian Institute for Precision Instrumenet Engineering reported that the 7.5kg BLITS (Ball Lens In The Space) passive laser reflector nanosatellite had had significantly changes to elements of its Sun-synchronous near-polar orbit, to its spin velocity and in is attitude and may have split into two tracked objects. It was only after analysis by the Centre for Space Standards and Innovation that the change was traced to a debris strike which occured on 22 January 2013. There remains doubt however about why the BLITS spacecraft only split into two parts rather than several pieces which is more usual after such a collision while other sources suggest that no collision occured.
The original debris was alleged to be a piece of the 750kg Fengyun 1C retired weather satellite which had been deliberately destroyed in a Chinese anti-satellite missile test on 11 January 2013. The test which resulted in a large space debris cloud caused international protest.
US Defence sources subsequently noted ...

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