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    Ecuador's Only Satellite Was Pummeled By Space Debris

    Written by

    Zach Sokol

    Image via EXA website

    The poor bastard didn't even last a month. BBC News reported yesterday that Pegasus, the first and only Ecuadorian satellite sent into orbit, collided with "a cloud of particles" left by an old Soviet rocket on May 23. As a result the South American nano-satellite can't send or receive signals, and is spinningly wildly, like a top upon two axes. 

    The Ecuadorian Space Agency (EXA) said Pegasus survived the crash and the agency is, "working tirelessly to stabilize the satellite to regain its signal." EXA is expected to announce on Monday if they can salvage Pegasus for further use.

    Pegasus only weighs 2.6 pounds and is just 4 inches in length, but the $700,000 project was supposed to be the beginning of Ecuador's orbital plans, with a second satellite named Krysaor set to launch this August. Pegasus launched from a Chinese spaceport on April 25, on a mission to take photos of space while playing Ecuador's national anthem on loop - a small project that demonstrated the nation's budding interest in space exploration. 

    This is not the first instance of space debris causing complications for satellites. Alex Pasternack and I wrote a feature last month looking at a study by the Inter-Agency Space Debris Coordination Committee (IADC), which warned that debris-related crashes will become a regular and frequent occurrence over the next two hundred years.  

    The garbage - like the Soviet rocket shrapnel that sucker-punched Pegasus - has the potential to prevent future space travel, as well as curb the networks we rely on for cell phones, TV, radio, GPS, weather tracking and surveillance. Space debris also has the possibility of creating a snowball of junk - as collisions can lead to bigger and bigger masses of orbiting junk that become more lethal by the centimeter. 

    Satellite crashes via space garbage were not perceived as threat until 2009, when a Russian communication platform called Cosmos 2251 uncontrollably surged into the communication satellite Iridium 33. Scientists expect things like this and Pegasus' accident could happen regularly, wasting government funding and years of research. 

    While Pegasus's untimely injury may be a step-back for the EXA, the Ecuadorian scientists have kept a sense of humor. An EXA Twitter account tweeted in Pegasus's name: "dizzy, but still here" and "you should see what the other one looks like now," which is adorable. Maybe Krysaor will have better luck.

    But we remember the good times with this video of Pegasus's launch from China.