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Posted by Michael Wright on December 11, 2001 20:18:45 UTC

... that if something falls off of a satellite it would have to have been from a release of bonds (tether, screws, bolts, etc.) or from a collision. Either way, some force has to act upon the satellite and the piece, giving them a difference in velocity. Even if this difference is tiny, over a great distance (such as the circumference of the orbit around the earth) this will magnify, and the two pices will have completely different orbits.

Now, if that little piece happened to drop to a lower orbit (or climb to a higher one which would probably be more likely given the equations for orbiting objects) then it could bump into another satellite at a small relative velocity, or it could hit a satellite going the opposite direction at a high relative velocity. Remember that satellites generally orbit the earth rather quickly and thus they are moving at high speeds. This gives a lot of momentum and if two objects on even slightly different trajectories collide, a lot of force could be involved.

Even if the collision itself did not seriously damage the satellite, its orbit could be skewed.

I hope I answered your question, if not then can you elaborate?

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