Jun 18, 2019 | Updated: 10:07 AM EDT

20 Year Old Military Weather Satellite Explodes in Orbit

Mar 05, 2015 07:38 PM EST

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A Satellite Orbiting Earth
(Photo : [Image Via: earthobservatory.nasa.gov])

According to a Space News reports from Washington, a 20-year-old military weather satellite exploded on the 3rd Feb. The U.S. Air Force describes that the cause of this incident was a sudden temperature spike.

The explosion of this satellite resulted in 43 pieces of space debris, according to Air Force Space Command.

It is known that the satellite, Defense Meteorological Satellite Program Flight 13, was one of the oldest and continuously operational satellites in the DMSP weather constellation. But it was not the first DMSP satellite to explode.

The DMSP-F13 was launched in 1995, and would end up providing thousands of hours of weather imagery to Air Force and Navy forecasters before transitioning to a backup role in 2006. There were no huge impacts or loss to the Air Force since this satellite was in a backup role.

The Air Force said "Because this satellite was no longer used by the National Weather Service or the Air Force Weather Agency, the impact of the loss of this satellite is minimal. We anticipate real-time weather data for tactical users will be slightly reduced without this satellite, but its data was not being used for weather forecast modeling."

The Air Force Command said that there was a sudden spike in temperature in the power subsystem of the DMSP-F13 which also resulted in an uncontrollable loss of attitude control. The Air Force is continuing to track the debris and will issue conjunction warnings if necessary.

There are still six DMSP satellites currently serving the Air Force including the launch of the DMSP-F19 last April. The launch of a seventh weather satellite, DMSP-F20 is being considered to be launched in 2016.

The DMSP-F13 flew in a 800 kilometer sun-synchronous polar orbit which is popular for weather and spy satellites.  

Col. John Giles from Air Force said "While the initial response is complete, JSpOC personnel will continue to assess this event to learn more about what happened and what it will mean for users within this orbit."

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