According to the Jet Propulsion Laboratory . The other is called the Gravity Gradient Stabilization Experiment (GGSE-4), and was a U.S. Air Force experiment launched in 2019 to test spacecraft design principles, according to NASA
. The two satellites are unlikely to actually slam into each other, said LeoLabs CEO Dan Ceperley. But predictions of the precise movements of fairly small, fast objects over vast distances is a challenge, Ceperley told Live Science. (LeoLabs’ business model is selling improvements on those predictions.)
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They did collide, “there would be thousands of pieces of new debris that would stay in orbit for decades. 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. debris [would] spread out and form a debris belt around the Earth, “Ceperley said. LeoLabs uses its own network of ground-based radar to track orbiting objects . Still, Jonathan McDowell, a Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics astronomer who tracks satellites using public data, said the near-miss prediction was plausible.
“I confirm there is a close approach of these two satellites around UTC Jan . How close isn’t clear from the data I have, but it’s reasonable that LEOLabs data is better, “McDowell told Live Science.
: UTC it’s 6: pm Eastern time, which is the time zone in Pittsburgh.)
“What’s different here is that this isn’t debris-on-payload but payload-on-payload,” McDowe ll said. In other words, in this case two satellites, rather than debris and a satellite, are coming close to one another.
It’s pretty common for bits of orbital debris to have near misses in orbit, Ceperley said, which usually go untracked. It’s more unusual, though, for two full-size satellites to come this close in space. IRAS in particular is the size of a truck, at .8 feet by .6 feet by 6.7 feet (3.6 by 3.2 by 2.1 m).
“Events like this highlight the need for responsible, timely deorbiting of satellites for space sustainability moving forward. We will continue to monitor this event through the coming days and provide updates as available, “LeoLabs said on Twitter Editor’s note: This story has been corrected. January is Wednesday, not Thursday. In Photos: A Look at China’s Space Station That’s Crashing to Earth