posted November 30, 2012
The Feb. 10, 2009, collision of the operational Iridium 33 satellite with the retired Russian Cosmos 2251 resulted in a decades-long pollution of a widely used orbit, and raised questions about whether Iridium, whose satellite was destroyed, had done all it could to avoid the event. The collision rendered the Iridium orbit a more dangerous place to operate for all satellites. The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) asked Iridium to estimate the in-orbit collision hazard caused by disposing of their current Block 1 spacecraft. The FCC also requested that Iridium determine the reentry hazard that will be created during the disposal of the Block 1 spacecraft.
Aerospace performed a collision assessment of the Iridium Block 1 and Iridium NEXT spacecraft during the due diligence work on the NEXT project last year. Aerospace also performed a casualty reentry hazard assessment for the Iridium Block 1 spacecraft for Iridium in 2000. This previous work was leveraged to produce a response to the current FCC requests. A draft report was completed on June 17, 2011, and sent for internal Aerospace review and also to Iridium for comments. Comments were included, and the report was released on June 23, 2011.