A US military weather satellite exploded in orbit in February following a sudden temperature spike in its power system, producing at least 43 pieces of space debris, according to US media.
The explosion of the Defense Meteorological Satellite Program Flight 13 (DMSP-F13) occurred on February 3. Investigators have ruled out a collision with a piece of space junk and other external factors as the cause.
“Basically, the spacecraft was 20 years old and experienced what appears to be a catastrophic event associated with a power system failure,”.
It was reported that DMSP-F13’s power subsystem experienced “a sudden spike in temperature” followed by “an unrecoverable loss of attitude control”.
Launched in 1995, DMSP-F13 occupied a sun-synchronous polar orbit about 800 kms above Earth. It was transitioned to a backup role in 2006, still collecting data but not involved in weather forecast modelling.
In April 2004, a 13-year-old DMSP spacecraft dubbed DMSP-F11 experienced a similar catastrophic breakup that produced 56 pieces of catalogued space debris.