Ecuador Pegasus satellite fears over space debris crash

NEE-01 Pegaso logo NEE-01 Pegaso is Ecuador's first satellite in space

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The Ecuadorean civil space agency (EXA) is trying to pick up signals from its satellite after it crashed in space into debris from an old rocket.

The nano-satellite, called Pegasus, was launched from the Jiuquan spaceport in China less than a month ago.

It is Ecuador's first and only satellite in orbit.

Experts said Pegasus had collided with debris from a Soviet rocket but was still in orbit. It is not yet clear if it has been damaged.


The eyes of many Ecuadoreans were raised to the sky on Thursday, waiting for news of Pegaso, Ecuador's only satellite.

The country's first and only astronaut, Ronnie Nader, who is also Space Operations Director of the Ecuadorean Civil Space Agency, kept the country informed through Twitter, where many shared their sense of pride.

"If Pegaso dies it doesn't matter because Ecuador reached the universe," wrote one user.

"Many criticise Pegaso but at least Correa is the first president that has bet on science and invested in it," said @cristifreire.

One singer, known as AU-D, who had recorded a song dedicated to the nano-satellite after its launch last month, said he had converted his living room into a satellite monitoring station. "Let's go Pegaso!" he wrote on Twitter, referring to Pegaso as brave.

But others ridiculed the event and created the tag #cadenadeoracionporPegaso (chain of prayer for Pegaso).

A parody Twitter account, @Satelite_Pegaso, said: "Irresponsible, those who send me into space without a defence team."

The US-based Joint Space Operations Center, which monitors all artificial Earth-orbiting objects, said there had been no direct crash but that their "data indicated a lateral collision with particles" of the Soviet rocket.

EXA chief Ronnie Nader tweeted that Pegasus remained in orbit. "Ecuador still has its satellite, the people still have Pegasus," he announced.

"Pegasus could be damaged or spinning out of control, but because it's still in orbit, we have hope," he wrote.

He had said earlier that it could take up to 48 hours to ascertain possible damage using radar.

Debris threat

Pegasus, a small cube weighing just 1.2kg (2.6lb), has been orbiting the Earth at a height of 650km (404 miles), transmitting pictures from space while playing recordings of the Ecuadorean national anthem.

On Wednesday, the Joint Space Operations Center notified EXA of a possible collision between Pegasus and the fuel tank of an S14 Soviet rocket over the Indian Ocean, some 1,500km east of Madagascar.

Mr Nader said the satellite was insured.

The Ecuadorean government contributed $700,000 (£465,000) to its launch on board an unmanned rocket.

Ecuador is planning to launch a second satellite, named Krysaor, from Russia in August.

The Joint Space Operations Center tracks more than 22,000 objects orbiting Earth, of which 87% are debris and inactive satellites.

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