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.
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.