The collision roughly 500 miles from Earth created a huge field of debris, but the risk to the International Space Station and its crew of three — 215 miles from Earth — is very low, said Nicholas Johnson of NASA's Johnson Space Center. So is the risk to the next shuttle mission, he said. The launch is scheduled for as early as Feb. 22.
The debris, though, could make it more dangerous for astronauts to repair the Hubble Space Telescope on a space shuttle mission planned for May, Johnson said. The Hubble is about 375 miles from Earth, Johnson said, and debris generally falls toward Earth.
The collision was between a now-defunct Russian communications satellite launched in 1993 and one of 66 satellites privately owned by Iridium, a Maryland company that provides phone service to customers such as workers on offshore oil platforms. The company said in a statement that service interruptions should be minimal and fixed by Friday.