NASA has revealed that an Iridium communications satellite collided with a Russian Cosmos 2251 communications satellite over the South Pole at 1155h Washington DC time on Tuesday.
The collision apparently destroyed both satellites and released more than 280 pieces of debris, according to the latest tracking estimates.
The space agency says there is “minimal / no risk” increase for the International Space Station or the space shuttle through the end of February.
NASA is planning to launch the next shuttle mission to the space station on 22 February.
The debris could however endanger NASA earth observation satellites as it descends through orbits 100km lower, according to an internal email.
The Iridium (an example is pictured below) satellite was flying in a 779 x 776 km orbit at an inclination of 86.39 degrees while the Cosmos satellite was circling the earth in a 799 x 776 km orbit at an inclination of 74.03 degrees, according to NASA.