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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Satellite Debris Seen as Threat

The crash of two satellites has generated tens of thousands of pieces of space junk that could circle Earth and threaten other satellites for the next 10,000 years, space experts said.

One expert said he hoped that the collision would force President Barack Obama's administration to address the long-ignored issue of debris in space.

Russian Mission Control chief Vladimir Solovyov said Tuesday's smashup of a derelict Russian military satellite and a working U.S. Iridium commercial satellite occurred in the busiest part of near-Earth space -- some 800 kilometers above Earth.

"Eight hundred kilometers is a very popular orbit that is used by Earth-tracking and communications satellites," Solovyov told reporters Friday. "The clouds of debris pose a serious danger to them."

Solovyov said debris from the collision could stay in orbit for up to 10,000 years and even tiny fragments threaten spacecraft because both travel at such a high orbiting speed.

James Oberg, a former NASA engineer, described the crash over Siberia as "a catastrophic event." NASA said it was the first-ever high-speed impact between two intact spacecraft -- with the U.S. craft weighing 560 kilograms and the Russian craft nearly a ton. "At physical contact at orbital speeds, a hypersonic shock wave bursts outwards through the structures," Oberg said. "It literally shreds the material into confetti and detonates any fuels."