Satellites Collide in Orbit
Two satellites collided on Tuesday about 500 miles above Siberia. One was a communications satellite owned by Iridium, a United States-based communications firm. The other was a Russian nuclear satellite which has been inoperative since the 1990s. Such collisions are exceptionally improbable given the vast area in which such space junk operates, and also given the fact that NASA tracks over 17,000 pieces of manmade space debris in order to prevent just such an incident. Some of the space junk tracked can be as small as four inches. For those keeping score, that means that the US government is able to track a Sharpie flying around the earth--in space--at 27,000 MPH, but somehow cannot manage to balance its checkbook.
The debris is spread out over hundreds of kilometers in orbital space and could pose a danger to the Hubble Space Telescope as well as other satellites and future space missions. The International Space Station is potentially another target, but NASA says that the risk falls within acceptable parameters. Acceptable parameters... that sounds so robotic and sciencey.
According to the BBC, Russia has yet to comment on claims that the satellite was out of control.
I hope those poor bastards at Iridium are insured, because I'm going to go ahead and say that Russia isn't going to cover the repair bill out of pocket. Is space a no-fault jurisdicition? Who insures spacecraft? Well if they are insured, Iridium is probably going to have to swallow a massive jump in their premiums... hopefully they haven't had any other accidents or moving violations in the last 5 years. Russians are terrible drivers.