A US military satellite exploded after detecting an unexplained “sudden spike in temperature”, sending dozens of chunks of debris tumbling into different orbits around Earth.

Civilian company CelesTrak was first to notice the explosion of the once-secret weather satellite and the US Air Force subsequently confirmed that it had been lost.

The satellite was an ageing component of the Defense Meteorological Satellite Program which the US military began developing the in the 1960s to help plan reconnaissance and surveillance missions. In 1972 the system was declassified, and data made available to civilian scientists.

The lost satellite was the 13th to be launched as part of DMSP, designated DMSP-F13, and had been in Earth orbit since 1995.

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