Russian rocket explosion a threat to satellites
By Chris Forrester

NASA says that an explosion last October as a Proton rocket tried to place a communications satellite into orbit poses a danger to other orbiting satellites. The explosion created “hundreds” of pieces of space debris.

The assessment, published this week, said that NASA believes that the rocket’s 10,000 kilogram Briz-M final stage fuel tank exploded at about 290 kilometres above the Earth’s surface. NASA had now identified about 700 pieces of debris and formally catalogued 111 individual items.

NASA says the debris should not affect the orbit of the International Space Station but it was working with other US research laboratories and its own Jet Propulsion Lab to get a better fix onto the residual debris field.

Satellites being launched through any debris field could be affected, although the danger is more likely to impact Low Earth Orbiting craft, and not the higher orbits of other communications satellites.