In a space-age first, two satellites have collided in orbit. Early on Wednesday morning, Sydney time, a Russian communications satellite and an American Iridium mobile phone spacecraft smashed into each other, 790 kilometres above Siberia.

The cosmic bingle left both write-offs. US Air Force Brigadier General Michael Carey, of US Strategic Command, said at least 600 pieces of wreckage had been observed circling the world.

“We knew this was going to happen eventually,” said Mark Matney, of NASA’s Orbital Debris Program Office.

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