Spark in Space

An electrical short likely caused the explosion of a military weather satellite on Feb. 3, announced 50th Space Wing officials on July 20 following a review. Investigators determined that exposed wires in the Defense Meteorological Satellite Program Flight 13’s battery charger likely caused an “overcharge situation with eventual rupture of the batteries,” according to the release. One operational? and six non-operational on-orbit DMSP satellites share the same design and “analysis has shown that the risk of potential short circuit remains” for all seven satellites, threatening additional space debris. The Joint Space Operations Center originally identified 43 bits of debris generated by DMSP Flight 13’s break up, but is now tracking 147 fragments ranging from “baseball- to basketball-sized objects,” the release states. No action could have prevented the incident, but controllers “took quick action to identify the anomaly and to mitigate its impact,” said Col. Dennis Bythewood, 50th Operations Group commander.