WASHINGTON – Debris from the unexpected explosion of an Air Force weather satellite likely will remain in orbit for decades, according to officials in NASA’s Orbital Debris Program Office at Johnson Space Center in Houston.

U.S. Air Force Space Command disclosed the loss of the Defense Meteorological Satellite Program Flight 13 (DMSP-F13) satellite Feb. 27.  Preliminary analysis shows the breakup was due to the explosion of one of the satellite’s batteries, office’s April 2015 quarterly newsletter said.

The explosion “occurred at a high enough altitude that much of the debris from this breakup will remain in orbit for many decades,” the newsletter said.

T.S. Kelso, a senior research astrodynamicist at the Center for Space Standards & Innovation, a research arm of orbit-modeling software provider AGI, tweeted April 23 that the explosion has thus far created 149 pieces of debris.

Mike Gruss covers military space issues, including the U.S. Air Force and Missile Defense Agency, for SpaceNews. He is a graduate of Miami University in Oxford, Ohio.