There are a lot of things fast in the low Earth orbit. Looking at the thousands of dying old satellites that can no longer interact with the Earth, one wonders how their collision is so low. But that may just be the case this week.
IRAS (a space telescope launched in 1983) and GGSE4 (a retired scientific payload launched in 1967) are on their
way to a near collision, according to the Leo Labs space debris tracking service. Are. According to data from Liu
Labs, the two spacecraft will sail approximately 900 km or 560 meters on January 29 at 23:39:35 or 15 to 30 meters
(50-100 feet) from each other. Miles away. And since both are slow to death, there is no way the earth can communicate
with them so that they can be protected. This means that according to Leo Labs’ calculation, there is a 100 chance that
they will collide.
According to the LeoLabs space debris tracking service, IRAS (a disused space telescope launched in 1983) and GGSE-4 (a retired scientific payload launched in 1967) are headed for a close encounter. According to data from LeoLabs, the two spacecraft will pass between 15 and 30 meters (50-100 feet) from each other at an altitude of about 900 kilometers or 560 on January 29 at 23:39:35 UTC miles. And since both died like snails, there is no way Earth can communicate with them to conduct evasive maneuvers. This means that there is one chance in 100 that they collide, according to LeoLabs' calculations.
The NASA / NIVR IRAS satellite and the NRO / USN POPPY 5B satellite (aka GGSE 4) are slated for a close-up approach on Wednesday. POPPY 5B has rods with a gravity gradient of 18 meters, so a missing distance expected between 15 and 30 meters is alarming https://twitter.com/LeoLabs_Space/status/1221908253627412480… LeoLabs, Inc. @ LeoLabs_Space In reply to @LeoLabs_Space 2 / On January 29th at 23:39:35 UTC, these two objects will pass close to each other at a relative speed of 14.7 km / s (900 km directly above Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania). Our latest metrics on the event show an expected missed distance between 15-30 meters.
And they are going fast. Their relative speed is 14.7 kilometers per second (9.1 miles per second). According to Gorman, if the two spacecraft collide, the smaller one will be cleared, producing a cloud of new debris. The larger one would probably remain largely intact, but not without any damage, producing even more debris. To be 100 percent clear, this poses absolutely no danger to us here on Earth. Any debris in orbit burns harmlessly at atmospheric re-entry. It won't even come ashore. The concern, as we saw when India shot down a satellite in low orbit last year, concerns other spacecraft. "They will collide at an incredibly high speed. And at that speed, it will likely cause the smaller satellite to completely break into smaller fragments. And each of those fragments becomes a piece of space debris in its own right," explained Gorman. "So you increase the number of space debris which increases the risk of colliding with a functioning satellite." Of course, a collision may not happen - yet. But with more and more satellites reaching the end of their life and being deactivated, as well as an increasing number of satellites sent in low Earth orbit, collisions will be absolutely a problem. It's a matter of when, not if.
The good news is that efforts are already underway to try and start cleaning up the large amount of garbage we have left in space. The bad news, as evidenced by this next close encounter, is that we may be just a bother too late. "The fear is that if we don't understand how to get rid of some of this debris in the next decade, this type of collision will begin to mean that it is more difficult to launch satellites and perform space operations," Gorman told ScienceAlert. "So it's definitely a major concern." LeoLabs will continue to monitor the two satellites and will update as the situation evolves. You can follow them on Twitter to stay informed.