For decades, space experts have warned of orbits around the planet growing so crowded that two satellites might one day slam into one another, producing swarms of treacherous debris.
It happened Tuesday. And the whirling fragments could pose a threat to the International Space Station, orbiting 215 miles up with three astronauts on board, though officials said the risk was now small.
"This is a first, unfortunately," Nicholas L. Johnson, chief scientist for orbital debris at the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, said of the collision.
It happened some 490 miles above northern Siberia, at around noon Eastern time. Two communications satellites — one Russian, one American — cracked up in silent destruction. In the aftermath, military radars on the ground tracked large amounts of debris going into higher and lower orbits.
The article doesn’t say whether one satellite rear ended the other or there was a head-on collision.
Spotty does hope the operators exchanged insurance information.