Ecuador's Pegasus Satellite Collides With Russian Debris
May 23, 2013

Ecuador’s Pegasus Satellite Collides With Russian Debris

Lee Rannals for — Your Universe Online

Ecuador's space agency EXA announced that the remains of the Russian rocket S14 collided with its "Pegaso" nano satellite.

EXA director Ronnie Nader said via Twitter that they had confirmation of a collision between Pegaso, or Pegasus, and a Soviet-era rocket. EXA said that they have been trying to get connected with the satellite and pick up signals.

"Space Command confirms that NO DIRECT COLLISION OCCURRED," Nader wrote in a tweet.

He said Pegaso could be damaged or in an uncontrolled rotation, but added that the satellite remains in orbit. Nader says that Pegaso still seems to be holding onto its course.

The Ecuadorian nano satellite is just four by four by 30 inches and weighs only 2.6 pounds. It launched from the Jiuquan spaceport in northern China on April 25 and started sending its first live video with audio on May 16.

Nader said the satellite "remains in its orbit, so we continue to be hopeful." The EXA director has said in the past that its satellite is insured, but never revealed for how much. The Ecuadorean government contributed $700,000 to Pegaso's launch onboard an unmanned rocket, according to the BBC.

Carlos Andrade, a Ph.D. student at Cambridge Engineering and Computer Science at Tec de Monterrey in Mexico City, said he believes the Russian rocket was possibly a spy satellite. He said the debris was lying in an orbit it should not have been and pointed out that the rocket was launched during a period in which the Soviets were launching secret satellites.

According to Andrade, the debris could also be from satellite Kosmos 1666. Nader actually pointed out Andrade's article as being a "very good article to understand the current situation."

"If that Pegasus is still alive is important to know that this can happen again," Andrade wrote. "Not necessarily for the orbit, again, it is very rare that a field of debris at 680 km in height."

As more satellites begin to crowd around Earth, more collisions are bound to occur. A few weeks ago NASA said its Fermi Gamma-ray Space Telescope dodged a 1.5-ton bullet in space. Fermi was able to maneuver away from a defunct Russian spy satellite from the Cold War called Cosmos 1805. NASA engineers were able to move Fermi's orbit to a comfortable six miles away from the now defunct satellite.

In 2009, two satellites collided in orbit, creating even more debris for engineers to have to look out for. A US commercially owned satellite collided with the Russian Cosmos-2251 military satellite in low-earth orbit, creating thousands of pieces of potentially dangerous debris.