"More than 220 active commercial satellites now orbit the globe, in addition to hundreds of military, spy and scientific satellites. Commercial satellites provide businesses with everything from data and video transmissions to support for consumer navigation devices"Well yeah of course they knew this was a possibility - that is why NASA has 'windows' for launching -- those rare times when there are no satellites over head and a rocket can get thru.
The shuttle that broke up coming back into orbit - I've always felt it was more likely that it hit a satellite upon re-entry than it was that a bit of missing foam would have caused issues ... or a combination of the two.
It is also very unlikely that this is the first time this has happened -- more likely its the first time they have had to report it because NASA/Russia has been able to keep it all under their hats (these days people have loose lips trying to get a book deal for everything).
And who really knows how many nations have satellites up there? or what type they are? it seems like every nation has something going on ... US, Russia, UK, France, India, Pakistan, Iran, Iraq probably has a couple too, and Egypt etc.
They are supposed to be letting NASA know so it can track it all -- and after a while the satellites would start having a gravitational effect on each other .. oh sure here close to the ground the effects would be minimal ... and even in orbit the Earth would still be the main influential body BUT they would still pull & tug on each other too.