Maybe satellites need an AIS system of their own to help them avoid collisions. Last Tuesday in what was a space first, two satellites collided 490 miles above Siberia. One of the Iridium system’s 66 operational satellites (seen here) and a Russian Cosmos 2251 satellite launched in 1993, which was reportedly not operational for roughly 10 years, tried to occupy the same bit of space. The result was what engineers sometimes call “energetic disassembly.” The fallout of the kinetic cohabitation was thousands of sat shards scattered into orbit. Some of these pieces of dead satellite could potentially damage the International Space Station and possibly other spacecraft such as the Hubble Space Telescope.
Iridium, of course, lost a portion of its global communications coverage with the destruction of one of its birds, but the company has said it intends to move one of its in-orbit spares into position to cover the hole. The replacement spacecraft should be in place within 30 days.
This collision has caused some space observers to recommend a space traffic control system they call a “Space Situational Awareness” approach which track space objects and make recommendations to spacecraft owners for avoidance maneuvers.