A small Ecuadoran satellite that collided in space with the remains of a Soviet-era rocket has survived the crash, but is damaged and not transmitting, Quito’s space agency says.
Ecuador’s space agency EXA had said on Wednesday that a space fender-bender was imminent between its Pegaso (Pegasus) nanosatellite and the remains of an S14 rocket launched by the Soviet Union into space in 1985, in the middle of the Cold War.
Ronnie Nader, EXA’s director, said on Thursday in a Twitter message that US space officials confirmed Pegaso had suffered only a glancing blow from the space debris.
“It was a not a direct hit,” Nader, Ecuador’s first and only astronaut, said on Twitter.
“Pegasus remains in orbit.”
He said that despite the collision, which occurred at about 05:38 GMT, nearly 1,500km above the east coast of Madagascar, the satellite seemed to be holding its course.
Later data indicated that the nanosatellite – a cube measuring just 10cmX10cmX75cm, not counting its solar panels, and weighing 1.2kg – actually struck tiny debris in the particle cloud surrounding the Soviet space junk.
EXA said that the satellite’s antenna had “lost its orientation and the craft is spinning wildly over two of its axes, so it cannot currently receive transmissions or send commands”.
Ecuadorean engineers will not know whether they can get Pegaso to work again until Monday, according to EXA.
Nader earlier said that the nanosatellite was insured but did not say for how much.
Pegaso – the first satellite designed and built in Ecuador – set off aboard an unmanned rocket on April 25 from the Jiuquand station in northern China.
On May 16, it transmitted its first live video with audio. Last month’s launch came amid much fanfare, including a live broadcast.
Ecuador plans to send a second satellite into space from Russia in July.