2 satellites will narrowly avoid colliding over Pennsylvania on Wednesday

Katie Ramirez
January 29, 2020

We are monitoring a close approach event involving IRAS (13777), the decommissioned space telescope launched in 1983, and GGSE-4 (2828), an experimental United States payload launched in 1967.

We're going to be reminded of that tonight (Jan. 29) when two very old satellites pass within 100 feet of each other 900 km above Pittsburgh. Those new clouds of debris would threaten any satellites operating near the collision altitude and any spacecraft transiting through on its way to other destinations.

LeoLabs, the satellite-tracking company that made the prediction, said they should pass between 50 feet and 100 feet apart around 6:39 p.m. local time.

If the two satellites were to collide, the debris could endanger spacecraft around the planet. In any case, Jonathan McDowell, a Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics cosmologist who tracks satellites using open information, said the close miss expectation was conceivable.

Dan Ceperely, the CEO of LeoLabs, said that if the IRAS and GGSE-4 end up hitting one another, the resulting collision would produce thousands of new space junk pieces.

Ms Gorman added: "The fear is, if we don't work out how to get rid of some of this debris in the next decade, these kinds of collisions will start to mean it's more hard to launch satellites and carry out space operations". The IRAS was the first space telescope that was launched in 1983 as a joint project of NASA, the Netherlands and the United Kingdom.

A company in the USA that monitors the debris orbiting Earth has detected two dead satellites that could collide soon. Since both the satellites are now defunct, there's no way for scientists on Earth to communicate with them - or send signals for evasive manoeuvers.

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"This kind of information signifies the rapid commercialization and expansion of the worldwide community into space", LeoLabs CEO Dan Ceperley told CNN.

A collision of two satellites in space may happen over Pennsylvania Wednesday (January 29, 2020) evening, perhaps distributing unsafe debris if impact occurs.

If you're concerned about pieces falling out of the sky, you needn't worry: the threat is only to satellites. "So there's a lot of concern".

Satellites colliding is not an unheard of event.

The resulting debris from the event could linger and travel for decades to come, threatening the existence of other satellites - including ones that now functional and play critical roles.

As the number of satellites circling the Earth increases, so does the chances of them colliding. This debris remains in orbit for decades and even centuries.

McDowell said there's one other thing to take into account.

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