Tiny particle blows hole in European satellite's solar panel

BERLIN — With its sights firmly fixed on Earth, Europe's eye in the sky never saw it coming.

A tiny piece of debris has punched a gaping hole in the solar panel of one of its Earth observation satellites, causing visible damage but not enough to affect its routine operations, the European Space Agency said Wednesday.

The unknown particle just a few millimeters big slammed into the back of a solar panel on Copernicus Sentinel-1A on Aug. 23. Using on-board cameras, engineers have determined that the hole is about 40 centimeters (16 inches) in diameter.

The European Space Agency said the loss of power caused by the strike is "relatively small" — less than 5 percent of the wing's usual output.

The incident highlights the danger that both natural and man-made debris poses to satellites and other spacecraft orbiting Earth.

The likelihood of such a strike is calculated at between 1:35 and 1:130 during the satellite's five-year lifetime, said Holger Krag, who heads the agency's space debris office.

Smaller, dust-sized particles hit satellites all the time, but this one was several magnitude's bigger, he said.

While the particle probably had a mass of less than one 1 gram (0.04 ounces), scientists calculated that it was traveling at up to 40,000 kilometers an hour (24,856 mph) when it hit Sentinel-1A.

The satellite was launched in 2014. It uses radar to track environmental changes such as sea ice cover, land use or oil spills.

You may also like these

China tech giant sidelined, US imports held amid...

May 10, 2018

China tech giant sidelined, US imports held amid trade spat

China's Huawei says it hasn't collected Facebook...

Jun 6, 2018

Facebook has acknowledged it shared user data with Chinese handset manufacturers, including...

Foxconn chief: US-China dispute over tech, not...

Jun 6, 2018

The head of Taiwan's Foxconn, which assembles Apple iPhones and other tech products, says...

China, EU to form group to modernize global trade...

Jun 25, 2018

China and Europe have agreed to launch a group that will work to update global trade rules to...

Tesla will build its 1st factory outside US in...

Jul 11, 2018

Electric car producer Tesla will build its first factory outside the United States in Shanghai,...

About Us

Science Tech Today is all about the present with what’s new in the Science and Technology world. “Keep up with today, and don’t be left behind.”

Contact us: sales[at]sciencetechtoday.com

Subscribe Now!