The U.S. military said on Tuesday it is now tracking 800 maneuverable satellites on a daily basis for possible collisions and expects to add 500 more non-maneuvering satellites by year’s end.
The U.S. Air Force began upgrading its ability to predict possible collisions in space after a dead Russian military communications satellite and a commercial U.S. satellite owned by Iridium collided on Feb. 10.
General Kevin Chilton, commander of U.S. Strategic Command, called the collision the “seminal event” in the satellite industry during the past year and said it destroyed any sense that space was so vast that collisions were highly improbable.
He said military officials had wanted to do more thorough analysis of possible collisions in space, but had lacked the resources. Before the collision, he said they were tracking less than 100 satellites a day.
“It’s amazing what one collision will do to the resource spigot,” he told a space conference in Omaha, Nebraska.
The crash, which was not predicted by the U.S. military or private tracking groups, underscored the vulnerability of U.S. satellites, which are used for a huge array of military and civilian purposes.
That’s more than just potential for an “Oops!”