US military satellite suffers “catastrophic event”
10:39AM GMT 02 Mar 2015
A US military satellite exploded after detecting an unexplained “sudden spike in temperature”, sending dozens of chunks of debris tumbling into different orbits around Earth.
Air Force Space Command confirmed to SpaceNews.com that the “catastrophic event” came after “a sudden spike in temperature” was detected, followed by “an unrecoverable loss of attitude control”.
The satellite was an ageing component of the Defense Meteorological Satellite Program which the US military began developing the in the 1960s to help plan reconnaissance and surveillance missions.
The lost satellite was the 13th to be launched as part of DMSP, designated DMSP-F13, and had been in Earth orbit since 1995.
Like all DMSP satellites it orbited the earth at an altitude of around 500 miles in a “sun-synchronous orbit” – meaning that they flew in a path taking in the north and south poles.
On each path around the earth, which took roughly 101 minutes, they would see a slightly different part of the planet. This would give each satellite a complete view of the entire planet’s surface twice a day.