A 20-year-old U.S. military weather satellite exploded in orbit last month following a sudden temperature spike in its power system, producing at least 43 pieces of space debris, U.S. media reported Tuesday.
The explosion of the Defense Meteorological Satellite Program Flight 13 (DMSP-F13) occurred on Feb. 3, and investigators have ruled out a collision with a piece of space junk and other external factors as the cause.
“Basically, the spacecraft was 20 years old and experienced what appears to be a catastrophic event associated with a power system failure,” U.S. space news site Space.com quoted Andy Roake, chief of the Current Operations Division at Air Force Space Command Public Affairs in Colorado Springs, as saying.
It was reported that DMSP-F13’s power subsystem experienced “a sudden spike in temperature” followed by “an unrecoverable loss of attitude control.”
Launched in 1995, DMSP-F13 occupied a sun-synchronous polar orbit about 500 miles (800 kilometers) above Earth. It was transitioned to a backup role in 2006, still collecting data but not involved in weather forecast modeling.
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