2 March 2015
U.S. weather satellite explodes into 43 pieces
By Brooks Hays
The satellite, previously used by the U.S. militar,y exploded into 43 pieces.
Engineers with the military suggest a temperature spike disrupted the satellites bearings and caused Meteorological Satellite Program Flight 13 (DMSP-F13) to lose altitude control. The oldest in the military's fleet of weather satellites, DMSP-F13 was mostly phased out of operation in 2006 -- still collecting data in a backup role but not involved in long-term modeling. Air Force officials said its loss would have minimal effects on their operations and forecasting abilities.
"Because this satellite was no longer used by the National Weather Service or the Air Force Weather Agency, the impact of the loss of this satellite is minimal," officials told Space News. "We anticipate real-time weather data for tactical users will be slightly reduced without this satellite, but its data was not being used for weather forecast modeling."
Still, scientists with the Air Force will continue to investigate the details of the event to prevent similar catastrophes in the future.
The 43 pieces will likely continue to orbit the Earth before
eventually being pulled back into the atmosphere by the planet's
gravity. While the possibility for the space debris to intersect with
other satellites exists, at this point, engineers are pretty adept
maneuvering space vehicles out of harm's way. There are currently 21,000
pieces of space junk measuring 4 inches or more orbiting the Earth.