Two defunct satellites barely miss each other

Missed it by that much: According to the US Space Command, two defunct satellites, one the first infrared space telescope ever launched and the other a military technology test satellite, apparently did not collide tonight, barely missing each other.

Prior to impact it was estimated they could get within as little as 40 feet. Since the military satellite had booms 60 feet long, the possibility of impact was quite real, especially because there was also a margin of error in the calculations and the two satellites were traveling almost 33,000 mph relative to each other. Had they hit each other the cloud of debris would have caused enormous problems, as the pieces would have been a threat to many other satellites presently in orbit.

Fortunately they missed each other. The problem of many such defunct satellites and upper stages and general space junk still exists however. Someone could make some good money providing a service to clean this stuff up. I suspect governments would be willing to pay to have it done.

Two abandoned satellites might collide

According to a company that monitors objects in low Earth orbit, two abandoned satellites might actually collide on January 29..

The two satellites, NASA’s IRAS space telescope and the experimental U.S. Naval Research Lab satellite GGSE-4, will swing past each other at 6:39 p.m. EST at an altitude of about 559 miles in the skies above Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. They’ll be hurtling along their orbit at a relative velocity of about 32,880 miles per hour and could swing within 50 feet of each other.

LeoLabs noted that, at the time of the tweet, the odds of a collision were about 1 in 100 and said the relatively large size of the two spacecraft increased the risk of a collision.

IRAS was the first infrared space telescope ever launched, and operated for ten months after its launch in 1983. The other spacecraft was a National Security Agency test satellite of surveillance technology.