Ecuador’s only satellite crippled in crash with Russian space debris

3D stereo simulation of the Pegasus satellite colliding with old Russian SL-14 rocket booster debris over the ocean above Madagascar. To see the stereo view, cross your eyes until the two images merge. The 3D effect is striking. Click for more images. Credit: Simone Corbellini

Russian rocket debris appear to have collided with Ecuador’s only satellite early Thursday morning 932 miles (1,500 km) above the Indian Ocean east of Madagascar. This according to Ecuador’s space agency chief Ronnie Nader.

Pegaso (Pegasus), a cube-shaped nanosatellite measuring just 4 x 4 inches (10×10 cm) on a side and weighing 2.6 lbs (1.2 kg) was designed and built in Ecuador and launched from China on April 25. The tiny bird takes pictures and video from orbit and transmits them back to Earth.

Model of the Pegaso nanosatellite with solar arrays. Credit: Wikipedia

Pegasus was not struck directly by the decades-old Soviet rocket booster but by a nearby cloud of debris associated with it. The good news is that the satellite is still orbiting Earth; the bad news is it’s most likely damaged and spinning out of control. It’s been reported on the Web-based Seesat-L list that the Argentinian satellite Cubebug-1 may have also been hit.

Give the amount of space junk in orbit, it’s no surprise hits like this are becoming more commonplace. 19,000 pieces 2-inches (5 cm) or larger are currently being tracked with over 300,000 pieces smaller than a 1/2″ (1 cm) orbiting below 1,240 miles (2000 km).

It will take at least two days using radar to determine the extent of the damage. In the meantime, you might want to stop by the Ecuadorian Civilian Space Agency (EXA) site responsible for the Pegasus program. It’s the only the space agency I’m aware of that uses popular a rap song in its promotion.

Ecuador plans to launch its second satellite named Krysaor from Russia this July. More on the story HERE.

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About astrobob

My name is Bob King and I work at the Duluth News Tribune in Duluth, Minn. as a photographer and photo editor. I'm also an amateur astronomer and have been keen on the sky since age 11. My modest credentials include membership in the American Association of Variable Star Observers (AAVSO) where I'm a regular contributor, International Meteorite Collectors Assn. and Arrowhead Astronomical Society. I also teach community education astronomy classes at our local planetarium.

4 thoughts on “Ecuador’s only satellite crippled in crash with Russian space debris

  1. Thanx Bob for the news as always. So here’s another satellite hit by debris …
    Will Russia pay the damage? How does it works up there in orbit, is there something siimilar to an international car insurance? I fear my question is naive, and one would not pay for the behaviour of its debris…

  2. ur link sent me elsewhere. i think the correct 1 is (tho i didn’t allow an ap that requested permission when the page loaded, despite it probably being legit and harmless). as for the popularity of the song, well maybe in Ecuador?

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