Sat, May 25, 2013 - Page 7 News List

Space fender-bender sends Ecuador’s tiny satellite spinning out of touch

AFP, QUITO

A tiny Ecuadoran satellite that collided in space with the remains of a Soviet rocket survived the crash, but was damaged and is not transmitting, Quito’s space agency said on Thursday.

Ecuador’s space agency EXA had warned on Wednesday that a space fender-bender was likely between its “Pegaso” (Pegasus) nanosatellite and the remains of an S14 rocket launched by the Soviet Union into space in 1985.

The agency’s director, Ronnie Nader, said in a Twitter message that US space officials confirmed Pegaso had suffered only a glancing blow from the space debris.

“It was a not a direct hit,” tweeted Nader, Ecuador’s first and only astronaut. “Pegasus remains in orbit.”

He added that despite the collision, which occurred around 0538 GMT some 1,500km above the east coast of Madagascar, the satellite seemed to be holding its course.

Later data indicated that the nanosatellite — a cube measuring just 10cm by 10cm by 75cm, not counting its solar panels, and weighing 1.2kg — actually struck tiny debris in the particle cloud surrounding the Soviet space junk.

The EXA said that the satellite’s antenna had “lost its orientation and the craft is spinning wildly over two of its axes, so it cannot currently receive transmissions or send commands.”

Engineers will not know whether they can get Pegaso to work again until Monday, EXA said.

Nader earlier said that the nanosatellite is insured, without revealing for how much.

Pegaso — the first satellite designed and built in Ecuador — set off aboard an unmanned rocket on April 25 from the Jiuquand station in China. On May 16, it transmitted its first live video with audio.

Ecuador plans to send a second satellite into space from Russia in July.

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