Letter | Iridium Satellite Wasn’t Maneuvering To Avoid Collision When It Was Struck

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The May 27 Opinion piece “Space Situational Awareness Sharing for the 21st Century” [Commentary, page 17] incorrectly categorized the circumstances surrounding the 2009 collision of the defunct Russian Cosmos 2251 satellite with an Iridium satellite. Suggesting that, “In an effort to maneuver to avoid one collision the Iridium satellite moved into the Russian satellite’s orbit” implies that Iridium was making debris mitigating maneuvers before the incident, which it was not. Unfortunately, no actionable data existed before the 2009 event, so debris mitigation maneuvers weren’t an option. As such, the Iridium satellite was not maneuvering to avoid one collision; it was operating in control and in its correct orbit when it was struck by the Russian satellite, which had been nonoperational since 2005. 

Since 2009, Iridium has invested a great deal of time and resources developing debris mitigation procedures and worked closely with U.S. Strategic Command (Stratcom) to develop the actionable intelligence system in use today. In fact, we have successfully maneuvered Iridium space vehicles after receiving information related to space debris entering our orbit. Iridium is an active collaborator with industry groups, Stratcom and others to create a safer, more stable space environment through the exchange of actionable information. 

 

Scott Smith, Tempe, Ariz.

The writer is executive vice president for technology development and 

satellite operations at Iridium.