US military satellite explodes in space while orbiting the Earth

The weather satellite apparently exploded after experiencing a ‘sudden spike in temperature’

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A 20-year-old US military satellite has exploded after experiencing a “sudden spike in temperature” while above the Earth, sending nearly 50 pieces of debris into the planet’s orbit.

SpaceNews reports that a “catastrophic event” has produced 43 pieces of space debris identified near the satellite’s last location, according to the US Air Force Space Command, though officials claimed that impact of the loss of the satellite itself was “minimal”. 

The satellite apparently exploded after what the US Air Force described as a “sudden spike in temperature”.

The incident was first spotted by a senior research astrodynamicist, T.S. Keslo, who tweeted that there had been “another debris event with 26 pieces”. He believed the event had occurred around 3 February, which was later confirmed by the US Air Force.

While the spacecraft had been moved into a back-up role nearly 10 years ago, it was reportedly the oldest continually operational satellite in the Defence Meteorological Satellite Programme’s (DMSP) network of weather satellites.

The US Air Force told Space News that as the satellite was no longer used by US Air Force’s National Weather Service or the Air Force’s Weather Agency, the impact of the loss of this satellite has been “minimal”.

It added that real-time weather data used for tactical users would be slightly reduced without the satellite, but that is data was no longer being used for “weather forecast modelling,” and that it will continue to track the debris caused by the explosion.

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